Christian Worship as Repenting for Harm
Done to Muslims by Islamophobia
In the Christian tradition worship is called liturgy, and it means "the work of the people." Below you'll find Christian liturgy for Lent in which Christians from Conway, Arkansas do the "work of the people" by repenting for ways in which Christians have contributed to anti-Muslim sentiment, through sins of omission and commission, and by expressing their appreciation for the way God works in Islam. Their closing prayer reads as follows:
"Gracious God, we thank you for the wisdom, goodness, and beauty found in the teachings of both Islam and Christianity. We thank you for the invitation to surrender to you. Grant that each of us may hear that invitation in our own faith and devotion, that we may come to know you more truly and live in peace with one another; for your love’s sake. Amen."
The liturgy took place at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Conway, Arkansas, on March 17, 2015. Approximately one hundred Christians were present and thirty Muslims. Within the context of the liturgy the Christians asked Muslims for forgiveness, and the Muslims asked Christians as well. Forgiveness was given and received on both sides. Members of both groups also recognized and repented for harm done to people outside their fold, including Jews. In months to come, St. Peter's Episcopal Church hopes to develop more of these kinds of liturgies, with people from other religions included. For them, this is a first step into pluralistic appreciation, but not a last one.
Pluralistic appreciation does not require a denial of your roots in the tradition you love. You can find within your own faith the lights of repentance and generosity, and then live from those lights. That's what the Christians and Muslims alike were doing as the liturgy unfolded. The worship service was a Christian service, in the context of which there was a reading from the Qur'an, in order to hear and respect the voices of Muslim friends.
Please enjoy the liturgy and the short Facebook postings from Christian participants at the bottom of the page. We encourage Christians in other settings to use and modify the template as desired.
The beginning of the liturgy...
Lent is the time of year when we do the hard work of self-reflection. We take a close look at ourselves—our sins, our shortcomings, the way things should be in our lives but are not, the pain we have caused others, the destruction we have brought to the earth, and the consequences our actions will have on generations after us. We ask forgiveness, we commit ourselves to the amendment of our lives, and we trust that through the grace of God new life is possible. We do this work of repentance both as individuals and as the Church.
With recent events highlighting the anti-Muslim sentiment present in our country, we come tonight to acknowledge the ways in which the Church and its members have contributed to the violence toward, and the fear of, our Muslim sisters and brothers. Of this, we repent. Asking for the forgiveness of both God and our Muslim neighbors, we commit ourselves to a spirit of humility, the embrace of differences, and the cultivation of peace.
The People stand for the procession.
Some responses on Facebook
from Christian participants
Sometimes, you don't know how much you need something, until it is provided for you. Tonight at St. Peter's, several Christian congregations united and asked forgiveness for inhumane treatment to Muslims that has occurred in the name of Christianity. Many of our very kind Muslim brothers and sisters attended, and granted that forgiveness. Jay and I were both in tears. It was so moving. We also heard a lovely reading from the Qur'an and listened to an enlightening homily from Jay McDaniel. St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Conway, was a wonderful place to be tonight (as usual). Allahu Akbar!
--Stacey Margaret Jones
The spontaneous response from the Muslim attendees, who asked for forgiveness from Christians for violence done against Christians in the name of Islam, put it over the top. It was an incredibly moving experience.
It was absolutely inspiring!!
-- Margaret Beth Bracy
I'm crying and I wasn't even there. If everyone else only knew how much better life on earth would be if we could all sit together and share without prejudice.
-- Dawn Parker