Last night I attended a vigil for the victims of the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC and I was reminded of the power in praying aloud. After passionate testimony from some of the clergy gathered, Rev. Leslie White of Bethel AME Church in San Diego, instructed the crowd of more than 100 to join together in small prayer circles and lift up our voices in prayer. He indicated that it would be a song of overlapping voices and that it would be beautiful, but I had no idea how right he would be.
There were people gathered there who were of many faiths and many racial backgrounds including many from First UU San Diego; certainly there were poor and well off in the room, those of differing abilities, LGBT folks, people of all ages…it was a moment of solidarity that I have not experienced before. And we all prayed. We prayed to Jesus, Allah, spirit of life, merciful God, the heavens, to each other, for the dead…everyone had a unique way of praying. It was, yes, incredibly beautiful.
But it was a reminder to me of the drastic difference between silent and audible prayer. Silent prayer is beautiful as well. It helps us access our inner life and journey and helps us to feel whole and directed. But praying aloud, particularly with others, is a public declaration and it is one way that we are able to drown out the sounds of evil in the world.
“he is suffering from mental illness”
“he has no previous offenses”
“he almost didn’t do it”
“access to guns is to blame”
“the pastor not being armed is the problem”
We are all being called at this moment in time to pray aloud…in whatever way we can. We must pray so loud that there is no other sound heard but the sound of the overwhelming love into which we are born; a love that will not excuse, tolerate or listen to acts motivated by racial hatred. Pray aloud in the 400 year old face of victimization of black people by whites. Pray aloud in the face of assumptions about race and racial identity. Pray aloud in the face of coopted, stolen and erased histories. Pray aloud for those who have died, that they may live in our hearts and travel with us in our actions for justice and peace. Pray so loud that the only sound that can be heard is love.
Have you prayed aloud today?