Months ago, I was assigned children's time for November 6 at church. I didn't know what I should do it on, and because the pastor was out of town for several days he couldn't answer my email. And there wasn't a worship leader for the service until Wednesday. Finally, the administrative assistant remembered the pastor had sent him the topic earlier: "Prayer can be a real part of caring for the community around us."
Right away, I knew that Will would teach the congregation a prayer he had learned at camp this summer. I have been very taken with the profundity and simplicity of this prayer, and Will prays it often before dinner:
May we have eyes that see, (hands uncover eyes)
Hearts that love, (hands crisscross over heart)
And hands that are ready to help.(hands spread outwards)
Right before the service it's our practice for the people involved in worship to pray briefly together just by the landing, and I happened to be holding Will's hand to take him in to church. (John and Jack were already there.) So I just brought Will in with me, we all held hands, and before the pastor could pray, Will just piped up with his entire prayer, confident and clear as a bell. "I think that says everything," laughed the pastor in wonder, and he dismissed us. The lump in my throat made it hard for me to speak.
When children's time came, Will was just as eager to teach everyone the prayer, and he spoke very close to the microphone. The children learned it, and then we all turned outward to the congregation to teach them.
We really needed to pray that prayer. It turns out it had been a hard week for several of our members, as a child abuse allegation had been made against the mother of a child in Jack's Sunday school class. The grandmother, who seems to be the backbone of the family, expressed her hurt that no one had called her first. She has struggled for decades to bring her children and grandchildren up to be good people. She has attended our church for 20 years, and regularly brings her famous macaroni and cheese to the potlucks. She stands up every week during sharing, in a great big wonderful flowered hat, to ask for prayer. And yet she believed now that some members in the church had shown racist attitudes toward her family. We listened to her anger and disappointment for as long as she had words, which seemed very long indeed. When she was done, hugs and tears.It was so hard.
Now I have learned that Will's camp prayer is based on a Unitarian-Universalist prayer that goes like this:
Mystery of Life, Source of All Being, we are thankful for the gifts of life and being, of love and connection. We are thankful for all the wonders of the world around us. We are thankful for each other and for all the members of our global family. May we have eyes that see, hearts that love and hands that are ready to serve in love and in kindness, with caring and with courage. Blessed Be.