I prayed for Trayvon Martin today during the Training Day sponsored by the Presbyterian Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries.
I had called my friend and colleague J. Herbert Nelson, the director of the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness on Wednesday saying that we should remember Trayvon’s death in some way. He agreed. I said I would bring one of my hoodies.
I arrived in D.C. on Thursday and J. Herbert asked if I would pray and include a prayer for Trayvon. After some reflection and prayer, I came up with an idea.
I put my hoodie in my backpack and carried it with me to New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. After J. Herbert preached, we sang A Mighty Fortress. During the next to the last verse, I went up to the chair beside J. Herbert, put down my backpack, and got the wireless mic. When the hymn ended and the congregation sat down, I moved into the pulpit and began.
“Sometimes we pray with words. Sometimes we pray in silence. Sometimes we pray through symbolic actions. Today we will pray in all three ways.”
I left the pulpit, picked up my backpack, and moved to a table set up in the center of the pulpit area. The table would later be used for a panel presentation.
In silence, I opened my backpack, and removed my hoodie. I deliberately shook it out so all could see. I then held it as high above my head as I could and slowly rotated it so that it faced each part of the congregation. It also prevented me from making eye contact with anyone and bursting completely into tears.
After I had shown the hoodie to the whole congregation, I snapped the hood back and showed it to everyone again.
Then I put on the hoodie and slowly rotated so everyone could see me.
Finally, I raised the hood to cover my head and moved back to the pulpit.
There I prayed with words for Trayvon and for all children who are victims of overt violence – children whose names are known and whose stories are told, children who are known only to the family and friends who love them.
I prayed for all children who are victims of structural violence – economic injustice, racism, homophobia – the systemic realities that shape our lives and too often stunt and snuff out the lives of children.
I prayed for those who gathered in Washington, D.C. to engage in advocacy for justice in Jesus’ name. May we have the grace to move from a love of power and the wisdom and courage to continue our ministry of speaking truth in love to power – this weekend and always. May it be so.
I uncovered my head and stepped down from the pulpit. As I moved back to my seat I again made sure not to make eye contact.
I am grateful to J. Herbert for this opportunity. I wish I could do more. I will.
See you along the Trail.
- All our sons, all our daughters (graybeardtrail.wordpress.com)