An evening of prayer

I just “overheard” a Facebook conversation expressing dismay and amazement at those who schedule (church) events on the evening of the Super Bowl. Well, guilty as charged in this corner, but none of us in the small group that formed to plan a service of prayer and lament for the Mennonite women of Bolivia thought of it, frankly, and no offense was intended. None of us, obviously, are followers of football.

In spite of American football’s crowning event and the rather poor driving conditions in southern Manitoba, however, some 80 or so people gathered for the service last night at the Morrow Gospel Church.

Photo by Ray Dirks

It’s always hard to evaluate something you’re involved in yourself, and that’s not the purpose with this post anyway, except that I’d announced it here and want to say now that it happened, and say thank you too to local readers of this blog who attended. We prayed using stories, Scripture, and song, and lit candles to mark our petitions. The music was wonderful, both the congregational singing led by Christine Longhurst with pianist Sherry Toews, and instrumental music by Lilian Guenther (harp) and by Barb Hamilton (viola). In the middle of our litany of lament, Lilian sang, unaccompanied, “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child” — this just before a Lamentations text that includes “Pour out your heart like water before the Lord.” Music can do that for us; it pours like water.

A few lines from Leona Dueck Penner ‘s benediction sum up, I think, the “movement” that those who participate in prayer can experience.

One by one, in trembling hope,
we gathered here this evening to pray and to weep
for our sisters and also our brothers in Bolivia,
feeling helpless yet wanting to express our love and
compassion for them across the miles.

Through God’s grace, we leave now strengthened and renewed
through sorrow expressed and shared within the community of faith
in the name of Jesus who invited the sorrowful to find rest in him…. 

As for “movement” within the people for whom we prayed, that is likely beyond our means to determine. 

(Although it wasn’t the main aim of the evening, the offering raised for a women’s shelter that’s nearly completed in Pailon, Bolivia, under the auspices of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada Mission, came to more than $ 2900.) 

Re. the specific situation around the sexual assaults, the most recent news I’ve seen — though it was more editorial commentary than hard facts —  was several weeks ago now, from the Kurze Nachrichten, a German newspaper in Mexico, saying that there was to be a hearing shortly of half a dozen men held in Cotoca, with the possibility they would be released for lack of concrete evidence. (No DNA testing has been done.) A number of men are being held in a different prison. The commentary includes [my translation] that “one is struck by the fact that those imprisoned in Cotoca are not well off… and one [wonders] whether money is playing a larger role than justice and truth… Bribe money is the boss; the law its obedient slave.” But, the article goes on to say, “Three uncontested truths remain: many women were used as objects, some are still being used, and only a few people are letting it trouble them much.”

7 thoughts on “An evening of prayer

  1. It was a very moving service. Well-planned and well-executed. I don’t think I have ever heard so many of the Bible’s words of lamentation gathered together and heaped up in one pile of grief and surrounded with prayer and song. Thanks to the planners and leaders.

  2. Thank you, Dora, for sharing about this service of lament and worship. It reminds me of a powerful experience of corporate lament that the Mennonite Peacemakers held at College Community Church MB on the 4th anniversary of the war in Iraq.
    On our website
    there are before-and-after photos of the beautiful clay tile, sculpted over many weeks, that the artist smashed during the service as a sign of lament and brokenness.

    • Thanks Dan, and Mary Anne, for your comments.
      @ Dan — Isn’t it a relief, really, that there’s so much lamentation in Scripture; no one can say, praying it, that it’s just made-up melodrama.
      @ Mary Anne — Seeing that beautiful piece of work whole at your website,and then smashed, is startling. That must have been a powerful image of brokenness. And then raises those big questions we also wrestle with — how could she have given her work up to that? (BTW, enjoyed your text message in the last MBH.)

  3. Thanks for your reflective words re Sunday’s prayer evening, Dora, and also, Dan, for your comments. They are a starting point for me as one of the planners/participants as I “debrief”/reflect on the evening and light another candle for the Bolivian women and girls during a quiet sunshine-y moment while my baby grand-daughter (whom I’m caring for today) takes her morning nap.

    The flickering flame in front of me, surrounded by the purple glow of it’s little glass holder, brings to mind a few lines of poetry which I had meant to read after the candle-lighting part of the broader prayers for justice, healing and hope section during the evening service. But somehow my aging eyes missed those very fine words. So I’ll share them here instead:

    The candles of our vigil shine,
    Bright counterpoints of light
    Proclaiming our determined hope
    We shall take back the night.

    Indeed, now that I’ve written out these lines, I’ll share the first stanza of the poem (written by George L. James for another December prayer vigil held in Bracebridge, Ontario, I think for victims of the Montreal massacre) as well since it includes the words “in trembling hope” which were used in the benediction as quoted by Dora in her reflection.

    In trembling hope we gather here
    To weep for sisters slain
    To pledge with others far and wide
    “First mourn, then work for change …

    The candles of our vigil shine,
    Bright counterpoints of light
    Proclaiming our determined hope
    We shall take back the night …

    (Note that these words can be sung to the tune of Amazing Grace.)

  4. Sunday’s meeting was historic. It was a public confession that we have not heard the cries for help coming from our sisters (and brothers) in the conservative colonies of Latin America. Many there have become economically and spiritually marginalized. Tens of thousands have been forced to move north (to Canada and the USA) or south (Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina) to survive.
    The words we sang Sunday night — “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord…” — are a promise that we will not only walk with them but hear their cries for help.
    Sunday’s service was a beginning, not an end.

  5. Pingback: ‘Mennofasto’ for a new era: Miriam Toews’ Women Talking | Borrowing Bones

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