A Prayer for the Human Family

A prayer offered on Father’s Day at the First Congregational Church (UCC) in Milton, MA, by a bi-racial couple Scott and Meg Matthews

Dear God,

On this special family day on which we celebrate the fathers in our lives, we offer thanks for the love and support we have received from our fathers and father figures over the years.  Today is a day to remember, to love, to celebrate, to honor and to appreciate family.

Today is also a day to look beyond our own immediate families.  Today, we wish to enjoy but also look beyond the Hallmark cards, the homemade gifts, the breakfast in bed and remember that we are connected to a much larger family – the human family.

We pray today for all fathers – and mothers- and grandfathers – and grandmothers –- for those members of our human family who are mourning the loss of a loved one lost to violence, particularly racially motivated violence.  There have been far too many acts of violence on people of color to fathom in recent weeks and months – this week’s shooting deaths of 9 African American church members at the AME church in Charleston, SC, the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and the police shooting of 12 year-old Tamir Rice in a Cleveland playground this fall.  This week’s act of terrorism in SC comes just after the events in McKinney, TX where Black teens were subjected to racist taunts by white pool goers as police used excessive force to “remove” them from a pool party they were invited to.

We ask for your guidance in figuring out how to come together as a church community to talk about race, racism, and racial justice.  We know it isn’t easy, but we know that many among us are hungry for a place to talk about it…. We have seen “unspeakable” things on the news happening to our brothers and sisters in our human family. But we need to speak about … and act on… these things if we are going to see change in our lifetime. If our children – all of our children – are going to ever live in a more just and caring world.

We pray that we will come together to collectively understand what you are calling us to do as Christians and as a church community.  We pray for trust and mutual respect and belief in our best intentions.  We pray for your guidance in understanding how we respond to all forms of injustice, including racial injustice.

We also pray for the courage to examine white privilege and how it can impact one’s worldview, willingness to act, and ability to see and understand racial oppression. We ask for this, understanding that acknowledging the dynamics of privilege and oppression  is not about assigning and accepting guilt or blame or projecting anger, but about seeking truth and understanding and justice.

God, I pray for these things as a wife of an African American man who is followed in stores, who thinks twice before running to the corner store for milk late at night, and who takes his wallet out with him at night to take out the trash – just in case he is confronted by someone who assumes he is a criminal because he is black and in a suburban residential neighborhood at night.

As a father of two bi-racial girls, I pray for these things so that my daughters will be treated with the respect and dignity that they – and all girls – deserve throughout their lifetime. That their words and actions, and not the color of their skin, will influence how people perceive them and what kind of opportunities they have.

As members of this church community, we pray for these things because our beliefs and our experiences tell us that race matters.  That social progress is not about being color blind, but understanding that race and racism impacts all of us and that we need to work to examine our biases, talk with each other, and work toward a more just world for all.

We pray that our church can come together as a community of allies. We don’t really know exactly what that looks like but we pray for the collective wisdom to figure this out. We don’t have a clear vision, we just know we need to start talking and we hope it will lead us somewhere.

Thank you for hearing our prayers, Amen.

About Norman Bendroth

Norman Bendroth is a Professional Transition Specialist certified by the Interim Ministry Network. He has served as a settled pastor in two United Church of Christ congregations and as a Sr. Interim pastor in seven other UCC congregations. He was also an executive for three different non-profit agencies. He has had additional training in Mediation Skills for Church Leaders from the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center and training in Appreciative Inquiry from the Clergy Leadership Institute. Rev. Bendroth has the M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and his D. Min. from Andover Newton Theological school where he concentrated on theology and systems theory. He is married to Peggy Bendroth and has two adopted Amerasian children.
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