We come to You and to each other and we lament…


Excerpts from the prayer service at the Garden Church today for those who were killed Wednesday evening in the  Emanuel AME Church, in Charleston, South Carolina

O Holy One,
We gather to mourn and lament, to cry out, to shake in the wake of another act of violence, another slew of images of death and brutality, another story of black people and white people, hatred and violence, racism and the cries for a just world.

We gather to lament Lord,
Though part of us wants to move on, run away, brush it off,

We stop and lament.

We come to you and to each other and we lament the nine lives that were violently ended Wednesday evening as they gathered to worship and pray.

We come to you and to each other and we lament acts and systems that further racism and violence, valuing the lives of some more than others.

We come to you and to each other and we lament places where violence and division tear apart families, communities, relationships and places inside each one of us.

We come to you and to each other and we lament the ways we have turned from you and from each other and we confess our need for healing and compassion, renewal and peace.

We come together to remember.IMG_0842

And to plant in remembrance of those who died and for those who keep living.


As each plant is being planted, we sing together. O Lord hear our prayer, o Lord hear our prayer, as I call come to me, o Lord hear our prayer, o Lord hear our prayer, come and listen to me.

We remember and mourn for:

  • Cynthia Hurd, 54, a manager with the Charleston County Public Library system.IMG_0849• Ethel Lance, 70, a retiree who recently worked as a church janitor.IMG_0845 • Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, a South Carolina state senator and pastor at the church.IMG_0851 • Susie Jackson, 87, a longtime member of the church.IMG_0853 • Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49, former Charleston County community development director.IMG_0854 • Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, age unknown, a church pastor, speech therapist and a high school girls’ track coach.IMG_0855 • Myra Thompson, 59, a pastor at the church.IMG_0847• Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., 74, another pastor at the church.
    IMG_0857• Tywanza Sanders, 26, a 2014 graduate of Allen University.

IMG_0848And we plant sage for wisdom. For honesty. For the willingness to repent of the ways that we participate in violence and division.


We come before you and we offer our prayer of confession and receive your assurance.

Before God, with the people of God,
We confess to our brokenness;
To the ways we wound our lives,
The lives of others,
And the life of the world.

God who forgives us and urges us to forgive others,
We claim Your unending love,
Your continuing call to renewal and change,
And your constant presence with us on the journey.

You are loved.
You are forgiven.
You are never separated from the expansive love of God.

O Lord hear our prayer, O Lord hear our prayer, when I call, answer me, O Lord hear our prayer, O Lord hear our prayer, come and listen to me.

And now, may the One God of Heaven and earth, God of Compassion, God of Justice, God who created and loves all, the God who calls us to move forward in making a more just and compassionate world be with us all. Amen.

11651184_10155741290850711_494062978_n-1–Rev. Anna Woofenden, the Garden Church in San Pedro, CA 6/19/15

Praying the News

Last Friday the Earham Community was rocked by the news that three students were hit by a train, one died on impact and the other two in critical condition. The following is an offering to grapple with the impact on the community as some of us experienced it that day.


We feel the familiar heart-catch when we see the headline,

But this one we can’t brush aside,
And merely send up a prayer for
unknown faces in some other city.

Someone’s loved one, yes,
but by luck, or grace, not our own.

Today the news has invaded our boundary,
of safety,
of being exempt from the tragedies that make headlines.

the news starts with “Earlham Community in mourning after…”
And that is you and me.

Reporters down by the giant Nutcracker in the corner of the furniture gallery that you walked by last week to get to Roscoe’s.
Faces of the injured on CNN.
Faces you’re used to seeing at the gym,
the library,
and walking by
on campus paths.

This news is not to pray and send good thoughts from afar.
This news is news to walk in and with.

People die every day,
63 train deaths in Indiana so far this year.
We can’t stop the world for each.

But today.
We know these faces.
We share campus paths,
gym equipment,
and library books.

We can’t stop the world at every tragedy.
We stop our campus today.

Our prayers are lifted up as we gather.
I light four candles.

Christ Light.

One for Therese, or Tracy, as her friends call her,

One for Lenore

One for Graham

Flowers by each candle.

Yellow: Hope and healing, for two.

Purple: Lament and remembrance, the third.

We walk, prayer in each step.

only broken by the crunch of leaves
beneath our mourning feet.

Our hands join those gathered in–
The Heart–pulsing,
with hearts beating and breaking
for heart stopped
and hearts struggling to be strong.

People connected.
Barriers broken down.
Spirit present.
I am present,
Aware to the aliveness around us,
Brought clear by the loss of life.
Tears move down my cheeks with those who weep.

We walk.
Side by side in silence.
Through the pine blossoms falling from the sky,
Even the trees are crying.

As are we
as we lift up the parents with our words
and imagine the phone ringing at 1:00 am.
Becoming the night they will never forget.

A quick tight squeeze, her arm around my waist,
the world needs to slow,
when one breath stops.

I call one of my younger brothers,
the one at college thousands of miles from home,
To hear his voice and know that for him it is just another day.

Anna Woofenden 2012

Prayer of Lament

Reading the Psalms can open us up to the expanse of human emotions and the depth and breadth of human expression as we call out to God.  The prayers of “lament”, of pain and suffering, asking for and receiving God’s presence are plentiful. There is something precious and vulnerable in these Psalms, as we are invited into the inner depths of the psalmists life and experience, which so often touches our own.

I’ve been reflecting on the power of lament, a place not to whine or complain about the things that are hard in life, but rather a place to name the struggles, the pain, the journey and the process.  A space to cry out to God and open ourselves healing, comfort and wholeness. I am touched when I have the honor to witness the cries of lament from those around me and find community strengthened and healing felt when we give voice to our lament together.

The following is a prayer that I wrote for class a few weeks ago and some art I created to go along with it. I offer it to you….

My prayer of color

A Prayer of Lament

One God, in many forms,
I cry out to You. 

Divine Parent, Holy Womb.
I curl up in Your presence, gently rocked to the beat of Your heart.
I am nurtured by Your tender care.
I feel Your hand supporting my neck
And Your love and healing permeating my being.

Jesus the Christ, You walk with me.
You know intimately the pain,
The suffering,
The gritty reality of human and earthly life.
I know You cry out with me,
And Your heart breaks with mine.
Knowing You’ve walked this path brings me strength,
And hope.
I know I am not alone. 

Sustaining Spirit, fill me.
Plug the cracks in my spirit with putty of assurance and belonging.
Heal the severs in my thinking with the truths of who I am in You.
Mend the torn pieces in my heart with Your inexhaustible presence and love.
Fill me with the hope and strength that is Your Divine Movement,
sweeping me into the Divine Dance. 

It is to You O Divine One, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last, the One God of heaven and earth, that I cry…

Heal me and make me whole.