Prayer of Remembrance

Commemorating the May 1866 Memphis Massacre

Oh, God, our help in ages past
our hope for years to come
We gather here in the sanctuary of your earth
under the vaulted dome of the sky.
We gather as your tiny flock, as a people
called out by faith in your future.
It is because we have our lives anchored in
your promised future
that we're able to pause and look back.
We gather here, your tiny flock,
to remember events mostly forgotten.
We gather here, your tiny flock, in the rain,
and we are reminded that the rain brings us
a rainbow,
a sign of your promise
never to leave us alone
never to forsake us.
No, never alone,
protected in the stormy blast
which still blows through the lives
of your little ones.
Your rainbow promise gives us the courage to recall
the death and destruction delivered on this ground
so many years ago,
the hatred and brutality—all but forgotten in our day—
inflicted on the innocent lives
of our brothers and sisters.
We listen, our hearts quivering, to catch the sound
of the cries of the ground
which absorbed so much blood.
We look about, our hearts repenting,
that such destruction still infects your family, your creation.
We remember, our hearts attentive,
that even the tiny sparrow catches your attention.
And thus we are confident, our hearts still hopeful,
that those fallen here so long ago
are still precious in your sight;
that those gathered here
are still called to herald the good news of your peace,
that your peace will one day hallow this ground
and that all shall come, from every race,
to rejoice in each other
as brother and sister
and you as Abba, Father,
as Amma, Mother.
Your Kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

©Ken Sehested @ Prayer written in May 1990 for the first public commemorateion of the 1866 Memphis Massacre, a race riot in Memphis, Tennessee, which claimed the lives of 46 people and wounded another 80. Ninety homes, four churches, 12 Freedman's Schools (for emancipated slave children) and many black businesses were burned. It began when a wagon driven by an African American refused to pull over and allow a white-driven wagon to pass.