Historically, faith leaders and traditions have stood together to help our nation heal at times of crisis. The damaging events of January 6th, 2021 created a wound in our nation that must be healed to prevent further political violence and attacks on our democracy.
On January 5, 2022, Franciscan Action Network and our friends at Faithful Democracy hosted this interfaith vigil to begin the process of healing. We invite everyone to read the scriptures here and spend time in reflective prayer, journaling where appropriate. We are all responsible for healing and creating space for peaceful dialogue.
We humbly thank each of our speakers for their participation:
Deacon Frank Agnoli OFS, Rev. Traci Blackmon, Rabbi Sharon Brous, Kent Ferris OFS, Imam Talib Shareef, Min. Christian Watkins, & Faith Williams
And a special thanks to our musician: Elena Lacayo of Elena & los Fulanos
Find videos of the songs Elena performed on our YouTube Channel.
On behalf of the Franciscan Action Network, and the Faithful Democracy Coalition, welcome to our time of prayer and reflection.
To “vigil” is to sit in expectation; to wait.
Tonight, we sit in expectation – in hope – of healing.
But that hope can seem far away.
Grief. Anger. Fear. Confusion. These may seem more real, more immediate.
We feel them in our bones.
A year ago, our body politic suffered a grievous wound; violence was visited on our capitol and the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another was threatened.
Moving from grief to hope isn’t easy, but the wisdom of our faith traditions gives us a well-worn path to follow: the journey of lament.
So, tonight, we lament.
We name the present pain and loss.
We look to the past, recalling that while God is faithful, often we are not.
And so we ask ourselves: how did this come to be?
Not to diminish or demonize anyone, but to discern what part we’ve played in wounding our country – our faith communities – our families.
Then, and only then, confident in God’s abiding presence and forgiveness, can we turn to the future with hope.
We are not abandoned; and we are not powerless.
What are we – as individuals and as communities of faith – called to do in the face of threats to our democracy, and to the rights of so many who have often been excluded?
As communities of faith, we ground our response in prayer. [Pause]
Call to Worship & Opening Prayer
Call to Worship [Adapted from: Liturgies of Lament (LTP, 1994).]
Leader: May God, the Compassionate and Just One, be with you.
(Response: And also with you.)
Leader: In silence, let us face the darkness in ourselves, in our communities, and in our country.
(Response: Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! See if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! For your name’s sake. Amen.)
Opening Prayer [Adapted from: Prayer Services for Times of Need (LTP, 2020).]
Leader: Let us pray.
God of peace and justice, who hear the cry of the poor and decide aright for the needy, be with us in our sorrow, be with us in our anger, be with us in our confusion, be with us even in our despair. Flood human hearts with your Divine Life so that all may strive to build your reign, and all may share the blessings of peace. In your most Holy Name.
Part 1: Naming the Wound (Present)
Scripture: Joel 1:2-3, 13-14
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Joel
Listen to this, O elders,
Give ear, all inhabitants of the land.
Has the like of this happened in your days
Or in the days of your fathers?
Gird yourselves and lament, O priests;
Wail, O ministers of the altar;
Come, spend the night in sackcloth,
O ministers of my God,
For offering and libation are withheld
From the House of your God.
Solemnize a fast,
Proclaim an assembly;
Gather the elders, all the inhabitants of the land,
In the House of the Lord your God,
And cry out to the Lord.
How did the events of January 6, 2020 create or deepen a wound in the United States? In my faith community? Family?
How has polarization affected relationships in my family, faith community, neighborhood, or other groups?
Reflection by Rabbi Sharon Brous of IKAR
Like us, the prophet Joel, Yoel, lives in a time of great upheaval. In his prophecy is a blueprint for walking through times of struggle, an ancient wisdom born of suffering.
First, notice how the prophet’s heart breaks with his people. To heal the wound, we must name the wound. We must grieve together. This is the only way through the great darkness. Weep and wail, and write and preach and speak of all that’s been lost. The ancients tore their clothes. They cried and screamed and lamented. (Avot d’Rabbi Natan 4:5)
They saw grief as a spiritual and moral mandate. It was true in the ancient world, and it’s true now. Public grief is a refusal to normalize tragedy. It is an act of rebellion against the world as it is.
Some in our society treat vigils, public reflection, public mourning as a sign of weakness. As living in the past. Can’t we just move on? But, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu taught us: Those who suffer from amnesia, who forget the past, are doomed to repeat it. It is willful, collective amnesia that is the weakness.
Public commemoration… this is both sacred practice and social necessity, a moral imperative– because it forces us to reckon and wrestle with the circumstances that gave rise to the unspeakable in the first place.
Because grief is not all the prophet calls us to:
The prophet invites a logic of truth telling into the landscape of loss. Yoel says what he sees. He cries out: calamity! Disaster! Devastation! He speaks with a piercing moral clarity… not only of the mess, but also of its root causes:
The definition of idolatry is treating a lie as the deepest truth. When a lie takes hold in a society, everyone pays the price.
An intoxicating lie has swept our nation in our time… a lie more than 21 million Americans are now willing to take up arms to defend. A lie that political leaders across the country are scrambling to mirror in legislation designed to strip the people of their basic right in a democracy, the right to vote. This lie, these actions, are spiritually anemic and morally indefensible.
The prophet holds up a mirror. He tries to understand the ways in which we accommodated cultural norms that left us all susceptible to the violence.
And we’d do well on this anniversary, to do the same. What about us? Did we turn a blind eye when norms were breached neighbors were dehumanized? Did we stay silent as the Big Lie took hold in our culture? Did we hide behind our privilege and fail to take seriously the threat to our democracy? Did we do everything in our power to counter the moral vacuum that would ultimately be filled by extremists, white nationalists hell bent on advancing a vision of America that makes room for none of us, willing to bring our society to the brink to achieve it?
The prophet demands that we tell the truth!
Because there comes a time when the only way forward is through the truth. When we’re called to speak not only about where it hurts, and what we fear, but to investigate the conditions that allowed for the sickness to spread. Not only to report how many breached the walls of the Capitol, but who fueled the lie that drove them there? Not only to call out the violence, but to name it: terrorism. Not only to condemn the past, but to take decisive, dramatic action to ensure the past won’t be precedent. That Jan 6, 2021 wasn’t just practice, as Barton Gellman says, for what is to come.
Truth-telling forces us to confront underlying conditions. A corrupt political system and media ecosystem. An addiction to white supremacy. A spirit of apathy and indifference. A broken economy that rewards profit over human dignity, that feeds us the toxic myth of radical individualism and eviscerates any sense of collective responsibility.
The prophet calls us to grieve, and to tell the truth. And then, to rebuild.
Yoel says: “The children will become prophets, the elders will dream great dreams, and the young will see visions” (Joel 3:1). That’s how God’s spirit will be made manifest.
We too, must envision a bold, brave new world. Do we have the strength to dream great dreams together? I imagine a world that centers justice, equity and human dignity. One in which the privilege of being human comes with the sacred responsibility to protect and defend those most vulnerable. A world in which we recognize that all of our liberation is tied up in one another. A world in which we know that we belong to one another.
One year after a terrible, violent breach, we need justice. We need accountability. And we need audacity—because now is the time for us to dream of the next chapter and then get to work building it.
If we listen closely, we’ll hear the whispers of the prophets: this time of collective heartache must be transformed into an era of collective rebirth. I pray that this anniversary will be the catalyst for a new America.
Part 2: Introspection (Past)
Scripture reading from the Qur’an
With the name of Allah (Almighty G-d), the Merciful Benefactor, the Merciful Compassionate Redeemer
1. By the token of Time through the ages.
2. Verily the human being is in a state of loss.
3. Except such as have Faith, do good works, and join together in the mutual encouraging of truth, and recommend patience and constancy.
54. Your Lord is Almighty God; He who created the heavens and the earth in six days and is firmly established on the Throne of authority. He covers the night as a veil over the day, each seeking the other in rapid succession. He created the sun, the moon, and the stars, all governed by laws under His command. Is it not His to create and to govern? Blessed is Almighty G-d, the Lord, Guardian Evolver, Cherisher and Sustainer of all worlds, all the systems of knowledge.
55. Call upon your Lord humbly and privately. He does not love the aggressors.
56. And do no mischief on the earth, after it hath been set in order, but call on Him with fear, hope and a longing in your hearts; for the Mercy of Almighty G-d is always close to those who do good.
57. It is He Who sends the winds like heralds of glad tidings ahead of His mercy. Then, when they have gathered up heavy clouds, We drive them to a land that is dead, where We make rain to descend thereon, and with it We bring out all kinds of harvest. Thus, shall We raise up the dead—perhaps you will reflect.
58. As for the good land, it yields its produce by the leave of its Lord. But as for the bad, it produces nothing but hardship and misery. Thus, do We explain the revelations in various ways for people who are thankful.
85. We did not create the heavens and the earth, and what lies between them, except with truth. The Hour is coming, so forgive with gracious forgiveness.
Chapter 3:129, 133-136
129. To God belongs everything in the heavens and the earth. He forgives whom He wills, and He punishes whom He wills. God is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.
133. And race towards forgiveness from your Lord, and a Garden as wide as the heavens and the earth, prepared for the righteous.
134. Those who give in prosperity and adversity, and those who restrain anger, and those who forgive people. God loves the doers of good.
135. And those who, when they commit an indecency or wrong themselves, remember God and ask forgiveness for their sins—and who forgives sins except God? And they do not persist in their wrongdoing while they know.
136. Those—their reward is forgiveness from their Lord, and gardens beneath which rivers flow, abiding therein forever. How excellent is the reward of the workers.
When have I put my political preferences above God? How have I made political power into an idol?
When have I repeated or shared information I did not know to be true?
How have I demonized people whose views are not like my own? To whom do I need to listen with an open heart?
In what other ways have I contributed to polarization?
Reflection by Kent Ferris, OFS of Diocese of Davenport, IA
Prayer is communication between humans and the Creator. Within each faith tradition, prayer is offered in moments of great joy and great sorrow, at pivotal moments both for the people of a unique faith community and sometimes often for a society, maybe even all of humanity.
In remembering the importance of prayer offered for an entire society, we look to the prayers, the invocations offered by the Congressional chaplains at the beginning of the two most recent days when Electoral College votes were cast and recorded.
Reverend Patrick J. Conroy, S.J.
Loving God, we give You thanks for giving us another day.
We thank You again today for Your divine inspiration, which led to the creation of the republican democracy we enjoy today, mindful that our responsibility is to faithfully carry forward this legacy to all those Americans who will follow us.
By law, the Congress meets this day in joint session to count the electoral votes for President and Vice President of the United States. May all who attend to these proceedings, and those responsible for the management of government, be mindful that something greater than each and any of us gathered, or affected by these events, is coming to pass.
Bless our great Nation and those entrusted with its care throughout this first session of the 115th Congress, the 226th session of the Supreme Court, and the imminent administration of the 45th President.
May all, by their actions, remember that we are a Nation which claims to put our trust in You.
And may all that is done be for Your greater honor and glory. Amen.
When we talk of those who speak as prophets, some misunderstand their words to be predictions of the future. Religious traditions though clarify that speaking prophetically is about clearly and honestly acknowledging the signs of the times when offering words to the Almighty.
Chaplain Margaret Grun Kibben
O God, our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of discord and trouble. Mountains crumble, waters rage, nations roar, and yet we need not be afraid, for even now You abide with us in these times of great discord, uncertainty, and unrest.
We, who have pledged to defend our Constitution against all enemies, we pray Your hedge of protection around this Nation. Defend us from
those adversaries, both foreign and domestic, outside these walls and perhaps within these Chambers, who sow seeds of acrimony to divide
colleagues and conspire to undermine trust in Your divine authority over all things.
The journey of this experiment in democracy is perilous and demanding, fraught with anger and discontent. But wise rulers still seek You.
So help us, God, to find You in the midst of us.
So help us, God, to see Your gracious plan even in the events of these days.
So help us, God, to serve You and this Nation with Godliness and dignity.
We lay before You the gifts of our hopes, our dreams, our deliberations, and our debates, that You would be revealed and exalted among the people.
We pray these things in the strength of Your holy name. Amen.
May our own reflection on the past become clearer by harkening back to the words in prayer that were offered for us all on those two days.
Part 3: Hope for Healing (Future)
Scripture: Rev 21:1-5a
A reading from the Book of Revelation
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”
What role will I play in tomorrow’s response to the events of January 6, 2021?
What part am I called to play in fostering healing in my family, faith community, nation in 2022?
What do I need to do to help keep democracy vibrant in our country?
Reflection by Rev. Traci Blackmon of United Church of Christ
Tomorrow begins the season of Epiphany in the liturgical calendar of the Christian church.
Epiphany, which literally means revelation…is a time set aside to celebrate new things: the presentation of baby Jesus to the Magi and the baptism of Jesus, launching his public ministry.
It is a time when we are reminded that even in the midst of chaos and danger, love breaks forth with a power that cannot be quelled by evil acts of Empire or the chaos of community.
Epiphany is a reminder that there remains a light in the darkness… compelling us forward… and that voices that cry out in the wilderness do not cry out in vain.
As we hold vigil tonight, it seems fitting that the Christian text is gleaned from the 21st chapter of the book of Revelation…words attributed to John during his time of exile on the isle of Patmos.
In this text John is not suggesting that we will ever live in a perfect world… or that there is escape from pain and tragedy for those who believe.
There is not.
But what John does offer… is what my colleague Tracy Howe refers to as an eschatology of hope: a belief that God’s intention for us is good… and God’s intention will prevail in ways that redeem, restore, and replenish us all.
Our country….our world… is often a place of distressing poverty, violence, and evil. Sometimes it is challenging to even imagine another way of being. A way of belonging.
But John’s vision reminds us that this is not God’s intention for humankind or creation…and such destruction and discord in the world …by God’s grace…will someday end and be made new.
In John’s vision, the final hope is not that we go to heaven when we die….Salvation is not us going to God, but God coming to us.
And not just to a few of us …because the third verse of this text portrays God as dwelling among us all. God dwells among us regardless of our faiths and denominational boundaries. God dwells among us regardless of our race, political affiliations, gender expression, disabilities, social-economic status, or geographical location.
God is with us. All of us.
Beckoning us to become co-conspirators with the Divine. Choosing to see the chaos and destruction that accompany the falling away of things as making way for what is becoming anew. And working to make it so.
Notice the text does not say everything will be replaced. No… that is not God’s intention. We don’t get to throw away people… or places… or things.
In God’s revelation…that which is broken is made new.
That which was lost is redeemed.
Those who are wounded are renewed.
Those who weary are refreshed.
Where there has been fear, there will be faith.
Where there has been hatred, there will be love.
Where there is strife there will be peace.
And when we make room for God…when we become co-conspirators with God in a new creation…the text says: God will wipe away every tear…not just the tears we cry…But the tears we have caused as well.
This is God’s vision of salvation.
Salvation is brimming with relationships…and all that is good about human community will be restored.
This has always been God’s intention. From Genesis to Revelation….God seeds a healed future. (Rebeccah Bennett)
Let us celebrate Epiphany not made bitter, but better. Let us remember the words of poet Lucille Clifton in her poem, won’t you celebrate with me, that “everyday something has tried to kill me and failed.” Let us remember that redemption is possible when we live out love.
Let us learn from the tragedies of our past and move toward the light within each of us fueled by the everlasting power of love, knowing that love is the only thing that never dies. It is toward this light that we are called, and it is only in this light we are all warmed.
May it be so.
Conclusion & Fasting Resources
Our lament tonight, our vigiling together, is only a beginning.
We would like to invite you to consider spending all or part of tomorrow (January 6, 2022) in prayer and fasting, in addition to other actions that you have planned. Fasting reminds us of our contingency, our need. Fasting together is a way to journey together; it can be an act of solidarity.
Fasting guidelines: https://faithfuldemocracy.us/season-of-prayer/
Closing Prayer & Dismissal
[Adapted from: Prayer Services for Times of Need (LTP, 2020).]
Leader: Let us pray.
God of all nations, you’ve walked alongside humankind through our many trials and tribulations, and laid down by your precept of charity that we should sincerely love those who afflict us. Guide us through these difficult times, that by your grace we may be peacemakers and prophetic voices in this time of pain and division. Grant that we may strive to return good for evil and bear each other’s burdens. We pray.
Blessing/Dismissal [Adapted from: Liturgies of Lament (LTP, 1994).]
Leader: May the God who heals touch us and our violent world, and bless us and be with us always.
Leader: Go now to heal and transform, to denounce violence and to console those who are hurting. Go and be the hands and heart of God in our world today.
(Response: Thanks be to God.)