Juneteenth Prayer

A prayer to the God of all sorrow and all joy, in commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States.

Gracious God,

In our reckoning with the history of chattel slavery in this land, we celebrate its ending with joy tempered by sorrow — sorrow that those who were enslaved could not be made free by proclamation, though proclamations are good, and not by amendment, though amendments are good, but only by force of arms. Our country took that hard and sorrowful road to find our way to the joy of freedom gained. May we do better today. Give us grace to willingly loosen bonds that deny abundant life to others and to ourselves. May we walk the freedom road together, in peace. 
God of all sorrow and all joy, to you we pray. Amen.

The above prayer is a stand-alone verson of a special petition that was inserted in the Prayers of the People at my home parish of St. Paul’s in Port Townsend this year, on the Sunday after Juneteenth.

Because we’re a “prayer book” parish, on any given Sunday morning we commonly choose from “forms” of Prayers of the People found in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. It’s not unusual, though, for special petitions to be inserted within the form to recognize special circumstances. This year it was my my turn to lead the prayers on June 20. I’d attended my first Juneteenth Celebration the night before, and as I walked to church the next morning, the experience was still with me. Pieces of the above prayer came to me on the walk. I put them together and inserted the result where it felt right on prayers for the day.

Below is the complete liturgical prayer offered that Sunday, which is mostly Form III from the Prayers of the People, found on page 387 in the Book of Common Prayer. The inserted petition appears in bold.

Margaret D. McGee

Gracious God, we pray for your holy Catholic Church;
That we all may be one.

Grant that every member of the Church may truly and
humbly serve you;
That your Name may be glorified by all people.

We pray for all bishops, priests, and deacons;
That they may be faithful ministers of your Word and
Sacraments.

We pray for all who govern and hold authority in the nations
of the world;
That there may be justice and peace on the earth.

In reckoning with the history of chattel slavery in our country, we recognize with sorrow and joy how it ended: sorrow that it ended not by proclamation, though proclamations are good, and not by amendment, though amendments are good, but only by force of arms. And with our sorrow, comes great joy – the joy of freedom gained. God of all sorrow and all joy –

Give us grace to do your will in all that we undertake;
That our works may find favor in your sight.

Have compassion on those who suffer from any grief or trouble;
That they may be delivered from their distress.

Give to the departed eternal rest.
Let light perpetual shine upon them.

We praise you for your saints who have entered into joy;
May we also come to share in your heavenly kingdom.

Let us pray for our own needs and those of others.

(Silence)

Loving God, accept the fervent prayers of your people; in the multitude of your mercies, look with compassion upon us and all who turn to you for help; for you are gracious, O lover of souls, and to you we give glory, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, now and forever. Amen.

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