Community-Connected Worship Nov19


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Community-Connected Worship

We had two rather remarkable worship services at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia over the last few weeks that I wanted to share with you.

Two weeks ago, for our community All Saints service, we remembered a different set of saints. Actually, the community prayed for the usual group of saints, those we have known and loved and have lost in the last year. But we also prayed for all those who have been killed by gun violence in the city of Philadelphia over the previous year as well. As part of that remembrance, a memorial to those victims was set up outside of our chapel. Sponsored by the interfaith coalition Neighborhood Partners to End Gun Violence, the memorial is traveling throughout the city and was on our campus the week before and after All Saints. It consisted of PVC-pipe constructed crosses on which were hung t-shirts with the name and age of each person who had died of gun violence the past year. More than 280 such crosses in all, which in and of itself was a staggering reminder of the toll easy access to guns takes on our community. The leaders for our All Saints worship service decided to incorporate that memorial into the service by inviting worshippers to move among those crosses, read the name of the victim on a particular t-shirt, and pray for the victim, his or her family, and the perpetrator of the violence. It was a moving and important want to connect a traditional celebration to the actual circumstances and challenges of the community of which we were a part.

A week later, at a student-led evening prayer service, we observed Veteran’s Day by praying for the many people who are serving in the armed services, giving thanks for their service, asking God’s protection over them, praying for their safe return and for support during the challenges many vets face on returning, asking God’s support for their families, praying for all those who are struggling with adjusting to being back home including coping with depression and thoughts of suicide, and asking for God’s support for all those who provide social services and support to our veterans. It also was a moving and important want to connect a traditional celebration to the actual circumstances and challenges of the community of which we were a part.

I realize that from the outside one of these events might seem more “liberal” and the other more “conservative” in nature, or one more traditional and another more progressive. But, to be honest, it didn’t feel that way. Rather, it felt like this was a community that very much wants to connect its worship life to its life in the world, that wants its prayers to encompass the concerns of the world, and that wants its faith to speak to the realities of our life together. It felt, that is, like a community seeking to give voice to the gospel in a way that is both faithful and fitting, that all might know God’s love. And it felt like a community that I’m proud to be a part of.

I’ve put pictures of the memorial below. If you want more information about the memorial or the coalition, you can find it by clicking the links.