In light of the recent shooting deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Korryn Gaines, the beating death of Joyce Quaweay, and the discovery of Skye Mockabee’s body in a parking lot, I keep hearing the wail of Alton Sterling’s son during that news conference. His public display of grief was both palpable and heartbreaking. Visual images of Black death comes so frequently, it is so hard to know what to do. More calls to justice? More vigils? Sit in our cars and just scream? The toll is immeasurable. And still, I keep hearing the wail of Alton Sterling’s son. Writing is a form of therapy for many of us, so I wrote this litany:
Eternal God, we cannot ask you for a single thing until we thank you for every thing.
LORD, RECEIVE OUR THANKSGIVING.
All-Merciful God, bind the wounds of families who have lost loved ones to gun violence.
LORD, HEAR THIS PETITION.
God Who is Our Strength and Our Redeemer, the Giver of Every Good and Perfect Gift, grant us peace of mind as we resist bitterness.
LORD, PROVIDE COMFORT IN TIMES OF OVERWHELMING STRESS.
Architect of the Universe, the God who carefully crafted and selected red skin, brown skin, yellow skin, and black skin to house bodily expressions of Divinity, comfort us when the world provides a steady dose “you-don’t-matter-edness.” Help us not to internalize other people’s aspersions and negative projections.
LORD, TAKE OUR BURDENS.
God Who Surpasses the Ordinary, help us to navigate our feelings in times like these, when many of us are not feeling reconciliatory. At all.
LORD, TAKE UP OUR BATTLES.
Comforter God, for the many who have died while under police supervision, in police custody, and for the family members who have been made bankrupt both by their absence and what caused it,
LORD GRANT THE PEACE THAT PASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING.
We lift these children to your care:
The Hammond children, present during a traffic stop. Officers broke out the car window and tased their father as they screamed from the back seat.
A teenaged girl at a pool party in Florida, slammed to the ground by a police officer who put his full weight on her back for reasons unknown.
Or the sweet four-year-old girl who told her heartbroken and distraught mother “it’s ok, I’m right here with you” after her beloved, Philando Castile, was shot and killed in front of her during a traffic stop.
Or the five-year-old son of Korryn Gaines who not only witnessed his mother being shot, but was himself shot by police.
The two-year-old and ten-month-old children of Joyce Quaweay who were forced to watch her boyfriend and his friend restrain and beat her to death, because “she would not submit.”
The fourteen-year-old sister of Tamir Rice, who was tackled and handcuffed by police when she tried to aid her dying brother, and was not allowed to comfort him.
The son of Tarika Wilson who was fourteen months old in 2008, witnessed police shoot his mother to death and was also shot.
There are too many to name; so many children carrying scars of violence. And so many more we will never hear about. How will their lives be impacted? Have their spirits been irreparably damaged? Have their life trajectories been shifted in ways that have forever stifled promise and potential? How can we help? What can we do? How can we change this?
These are the questions we bring to God in prayer for them, and for us. Please also consider in your praying that there are advocacy groups that can use our help, and give us a place to mix our faith with action.
Here are just a few: