12 years ago, I'd just left the photocopy room at the hospital where I was serving as whole time chaplain. I was clutching in my hand copies of the order of service for a Presbytery Communion Celebration that I was conducting that evening as Moderator of the Presbytery. A white faced staff member stopped me in the corridor and asked: "Have you seen the news?"
For the next few hours, folk wandered from office to office, checking out the latest updates, not saying much, not doing much except seeking out companionship, unable to grasp the enormity of the events we witnessed in New York.
The Hospital Chapel was just a few doors down and people trickled in and out as the afternoon wore on looking for space to reflect and connect. It was the next day before we got some written prayers organised to help folk in their reflections.
The service so carefully planned for that evening went out of my head until the organist called and asked what changes I'd like to make to the choice of hymns in the light of the day's news. In particular, he was concerned about the first item of praise: Singing we gladly worship the Lord together. It seemed altogether too bright to sing in the light of carnage and death. I was about to agree. But then I looked at the words again:
Singing we gladly worship the Lord together
Singing we gladly worship the Lord
Those who are travelling the road of life
Sow seeds of peace and love
Come, bringing hope into a world of fear,
a world which is burdened down with dread,
a world which is yearning for a greater love
but needs to be shown the true way.
Come bringing joyfully in both your hands
some kindling to light the path to peace,
some hope that there is a more human world
where justice and truth will be born.
Whenever hatefulness and violence
are banished for ever from our hearts,
then will the world believe the day is near
when sadness and pain shall find their rest
Those words have been in my heart more than ever recently as we light candles and take time to reflect on the effects of chemical warfare in Syria. And, as once again, our collective breaths are held while we await the outcome of retaliation by nations that know first hand the devastating ripple effects of violent resolve.
Incidentally, the second song we sang that night was Bernadette Farrell'sChrist be our light
Longing for light, we wait in darkness.
Longing for truth, we turn to you.
Make us your own, your holy people,
light for the world to see.
Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.
Longing for peace, our world is troubled.
Longing for hope, many despair.
Your word alone has pow’r to save us.
Make us your living voice.
Longing for food, many are hungry.
Longing for water, many still thirst.
Make us your bread, broken for others,
shared until all are fed.
Longing for shelter, many are homeless.
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us your building, sheltering others,
walls made of living stone.
Many the gifts, many the people,
many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
making your kingdom come.
Two hymns, chosen before horrific events unfolded, with words that, to our shame, continue to be the words that we need to pray today. When will we deign to be involved alongside God in the work of answering our prayers for peace?
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