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Praying While Moving Your Feet: A New Way of Sorrow/Way of Hope
Prayer Stations of Action
These prayer stations are designed, sadly, to be used after another incident of gun violence, because we continue to have them. I’m fed up with writing prayers after these events where children die, so I wanted to create something that might move people beyond prayer without action into prayer with action.
There are seven stages included in this vigil. Music may be played in the background. One of the stations does call for speaking, and another for breaking things or setting them on fire, so you may want one or two of the stations outside, but this is not intended to be a quiet vigil. This is intended to be a space where people can cry and shout and express their sorrow and anger, while moving toward healing and hope.
These stages are designed to go in order. If you choose to allow people to move to various stations, be mindful of not allowing anger to be the last one. Knowing that all of our congregations are different, feel free to adapt and change the wording to fit your community.
At the entrance to the space you are using, post these words:
From Mother Teresa: “I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that [God] will guide me to do whatever I’m supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I’m praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things.”
Station One: Grief
Arrange a table with framed photos of those who have died due to gun violence, with their obituary or other reflection about their life next to the photo.
Have a few votive candles lit, and tea candles set up for others to light.
Frame a card with the verse Jeremiah 31:15 “Thus says the Lord: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”
Be sure to have tissues nearby.
Station Two: Anger
On another table, share news stories of failed legislation. On strips of paper, write quotes of those who say nothing can be done or who offer only thoughts and prayers. If you have a way to do so, a bowl where people can safely burn those strips of paper. Another idea is to write those quotes on glass that can be broken in a safe way. The idea is to have a physical way to release anger, but in a safe manner. If needed, simply tearing up the paper into little pieces can work, too. Another idea, which will not work in all settings, is to allow people to shout and express their anger, including expletives. You can write down your words of anger on a poster board and then speak them out loud in the sanctuary.
Also include a card with these words to conclude this station before moving on to others:
“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” –Ephesians 4:26
Take a deep breath in through your nose and let it out.
Close your eyes.
Take another deep breath and breathe in God’s spirit.
Let it out slowly.
Know that God is with you, that God hears your cries and your anger.
God desires justice and peace, but also peace in you.
Breathe in God’s spirit; breathe out your anger in this space.
Breathe in God’s peace; breathe out, knowing Christ’s peace is with you.
Station Three: Dialogue
Print out various opinion pieces on gun control, mental health (but be sure not to include pieces that stigmatize those with mental illness), isolation of young boys, white supremacy, or other articles. Look for ones where there are openings to dialogue, such as gun right’s advocates who believe in some gun laws and limitations, background checks, or other places of compromise. Look for pieces that speak of communal responsibility of raising and educating our children rather than blaming others.
Place a card with this verse from Ephesians 4:29 “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.”
Set up a small table with chairs (perhaps three pairs of chairs facing each other). Share these instructions:
Sit with another.
Look at each other for a minute in silence.
Determine who will speak first.
Take one minute for the first person to share their thoughts, then the second for the other to share their thoughts. Do not respond or interrupt.
Determine what points of commonality you each have.
Determine places where there is room to compromise.
Each pray for the other.
Station Four: Action
Have petitions to sign for legislation for gun reform, closing background check loopholes, or expanding mental health care. Include voter registration forms, and postcards to legislators ready to be stamped and mailed. You may also wish to include other contacts, such as a list of phone numbers for your legislators printed on a card for people to take with them.
Display a card with this verse from James 2:17 “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
Station Five: Sharing of Resources
Take donations for an organization active in your area that is helping to reduce gun violence. Some suggestions include Sandy Hook Promise, Everytown for Gun Safety, etc. Have envelopes, information about the group, or a card with a link for an online donation.
Place a card with this verse on the table from Hebrews 13:16: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
Station Six: Blessing of Hands
Have a basin and a jug full of water along with a towel or two. This station will need pairs, so as someone comes to the table, they will poor water over the hands of the other. Have these words printed on a card for the person pouring the water to say: “May these hands never touch violence; may these hands never strike another. Bless these hands to give; bless these hands to love; bless these hands to hold on to hope.”
Station Seven: Blessing the World
(this station should be near the exit as people leave)
Have a basket full of mini globes (here is one option to purchase) along with a fine-tip permanent marker. Those who have attended are invited to take a globe to pray for the world, to pray for an end to violence. Invite them to write down a child’s name on the globe and to take it as a reminder that our children are our world. They are not our future, but they are the world, now, and may we make a safer world for them.
Have a card with this verse from Luke 18:16: “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”
Release Date: October 8th, 2019