I’m doing my field education at a large downtown Methodist church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Normally, waking up early on the first day of the week while it is still dark should be a joyous work for pastors and church staff. But early this past Sunday news started to come in of a mass shooting in Orlando. The number of fatalities kept rising and I realized in that moment we at the church I serve had a choice to make: Do we alter our liturgy for the morning to acknowledge and pray for the horrific events or do we go on with business as usual. The choice for me and for my field education mentor was clear: we had to say something, we had to mark the atrocious acts of a terrorist on our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. It was not the time to talk about polity or what the United Methodist Church believes is compatible or incompatible with Christian teaching; it was time to do what the Church has done for centuries prior. It was time to pray.
The first hymn played at our 11:00am service. We had three baptisms right after the processional hymn but I asked our congregation to be seated and noted we would be changing the liturgy of the service. If liturgy really is the work of the people as we believe it to be, it was time for us to give voice to what we were undoubtedly feeling. We challenged each other to pray and let our prayers be turned to action. We acknowledged that there was a time for the heartbreak and horror our community members were feeling. We said that though there was a time for heartbreak and horror, we hoped that it would turn to action, to a day where we beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks and we train for war no more.
I tell you this because today, this week, this month, the larger community will be watching what the Church does in these moments. Will we offer thoughts and prayers today and condemn the next day? Will we say that we will change our tune on gun violence and then go back to the same status quo that got us here in the first place?
May our liturgy be bold enough to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, news that demands of us action and resolve. May we be the agents of change through our liturgy, polity and community action. Let us hold each other accountable when anti-LGBT rhetoric is communicated; after all, in my tradition in our baptisms we are called to “resist evil and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” Well people, now is the time to resist and to act. May our liturgy reflect that sure and certain reality that God will use us to make things right.