A prayer beyond “thoughts and prayers”

Holy One,

Your children cry out to you,
in anger,
in fear,
in frustration,
in terror,
as we face, together, more gun violence in our country.

For everyone killed in the senseless violence yesterday,
May their families be comforted in the face of overwhelming grief,
Lord, hear our prayer.

For everyone wounded and in shock,
May Your Presence overwhelm their unbearable fear,
and comfort those in pain.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For all who are retraumatized and saturated with their anxiety
and real terror as they relive horrible events in their past,
may they be surrounded by friends and family who bring Your hope and peace.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For politicians who have cared more about contributions than human lives,
May your righteousness weigh heavily on their hearts,
and may they hear your Call to service, not only to re-election.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For our children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews,
who deserve a childhood without mass shootings
and face fear in their classrooms,
May you shelter them and reassurance them by your Presence,
and bring caring adults around them for support.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For Your Church, Lord,
for we have turned our eyes away,
or offered half-hearted thoughts and prayers,
May we stand up to those who preach freedom over faith.
May we declare that all persons are valuable and deserving of protection.
May we minister Christ’s justice, peace, and reconciliation.
May we vote our convictions and listen to Your Holy Spirit.
Lord, hear our prayer.


(c) 2019 Rev. Deborah Vaughn. You are welcome to use this prayer with attribution. SDG

Prayers for the whys


Tonight I offer
prayers for the whys
prayers for the not agains
prayers for the dying
prayers for the dead
prayers for the angry
prayers for the scared
prayers for the healers
prayers for the investigators
prayers for the grieving
prayers for the bystanders
prayers for the perpetuators of hate
prayers for the unhelpful rhetoric
prayers for the politicians
prayers for news outlets
prayers for our faith communities
prayers for the gun lovers
prayers for the gun lobbyists
prayers for the peacemakers
prayers for change
prayers for hope…

Oh God, in your mercy,
hear our prayers…

et lux perpetua…

Today during our Hospice team meeting, we stopped at the 10 o’clock hour to honor the lives lost in Parkland, Florida just two weeks ago. Just two weeks…

I re-lit our memorial candles to read the 17 names. After two or three names, I could not go on. So I passed the paper to a co-worker… and to another… and then we stood in silence. And tears.

At my regular team meeting, I read the names of recent deaths, and we have a moment to honor them. Sometimes I get a lump in my throat and feel a little sad. The stories and lives of our patients affect us deeply. We know we are in a sacred work.

But this… this was so very difficult. So very, very different.

This was random.
This was evil.
This was violent.
This was full of pain.
This was senseless.

Right before I blew out the candles, I said to my teammates, “May their lights continue to shine.”


…et lux perpetua luceat eis…

And let perpetual Light shine upon them.




Another shooting?

Whatever the reason…
Whoever has done this…
I do not understand.
I feel helpless…
The loss of lives, the stunned survivors…

I cannot make excuses or place blame.
(But, God, how I want to!)
My anger rises at the impotent lawmakers,
The greed of the gun lobbyists…

My heart can only cry out,

How many votives will I light?
How long will it take to light them?
And then… to watch them flicker out,
one by one by one…
life by life by life…

My heart can only cry out,

Lessons from Ferguson

The news from Ferguson, Missouri touches a nerve. More than ever, I am aware of the ways in which my family of origin has shaped my human experience. I am blessed and privileged. To say anything less, or to make assumptions that I “understand” is both presumptuous and (dare I say it?) sinful.

As a chaplain, I have had several encounters in the hospital ER that remind me how fragile human life really is. Car accidents. Heart attacks. Drug overdose. Suicide attempts. Gun violence. Those are the extreme, headline-grabbing type of incidents.

Then there are the more commonplace that occur due to lack of access or engagement with the health system, or perhaps denial on the part of the patient. Raging infections. Impacted bowels. Cancer in advanced stages. Psychiatric illness. Neglect and abuse.

Each encounter backlit a problem that is systemic in our culture. Each incident caused a sudden weaving of a stranger’s life into my own. Over and over I heard the phrase, “Why is this happening to me?” I noted an unjust indictment against God: “If God is a loving God, why….?”

I can’t answer for God. Truthfully, there are days I do not really understand how God is working in the world. I walk on with faith and hope that the God I worship does care, does see each life as having value and does an overarching plan for the Universe.

Solidarity march for Michael Brown in response to the Ferguson grand jury decision from Flickr via Wylio© 2014 Fibonacci Blue, Flickr | via Wylio

When I read about the uproar in Ferguson, I am frustrated. I am angry. I feel powerless (and I am among the faces and races that have the socioeconomic power). Most of all, I grieve. I know that I do not really understand “what it feels like.” I remember that I have not experienced the pain, the prejudice, the anger, the wall of silence.

I remember sitting with a family member once, the matriarch of the family, waiting with her as the police detective interviewed her and then accompanying her to see her young son’s body. He had been shot in the heart at close range and was dead on arrival to the Trauma Center.

Her pain was visceral. Her family’s loss was palpable. The detective, the admissions clerk, the charge nurse all responded with efficiency, and I think they were sad that it happened. But the never-ending workload caused them to briskly move to their next tasks. It must have felt like no one cared. She turned the full force of her anger on me… and I had to agree with her that things were not going to be “OK.” In fact, I told her, they never would be.

Acknowledging her pain and my privilege didn’t fix things. But it did give us the space to move on, together, with a deeper awareness on my part that I understood far too little.

Ferguson Solidarity March NYC 11-25-14 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 A Jones, Flickr | via Wylio

This lesson from Ferguson doesn’t sink in easily. It isn’t comfortable. It drives conversation into depths that define one’s understanding of the abuse of power, lines of communication and the reality of racial prejudice. If we are going to learn anything trom Ferguson, Missouri, it is simply this:

We must walk through this together. And with God’s help.

That night in the ER, the grieving mother and I began that journey. We sat together, letting the tears come and go. Softly and with wavering voices, we sang a hymn. It has become my anthem to accompany sorrow, fear and the big Unknown.

I do not understand fully but that does not stop me from listening, from grieving, and from praying for change. Not One More Life lost to gun violence.


Precious Lord, take my hand.

Lead me on, let me stand,

I am tired, I am weak, I am worn…

Through the storm, through the night

Lead me on through the night…

Precious Lord, take my hand,

Lead me home…

© Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey