Litany for Gun Violence Prevention offered for use in Sunday services

Posted Jun 14, 2016

[Episcopal News Service] The following Litany for Gun Violence Prevention is written by the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, Episcopal bishop of Maine, and offered for use in liturgies throughout the Episcopal Church this coming Sunday or at any other time.

The litany is available as downloadable bulletin inserts in English here and in Spanish here.

A full Eucharistic liturgy, prepared by St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, is available here.

Giver of Life and Love, you created all people as one family and called us to live together in harmony and peace. Surround us with your love as we face the challenges and tragedies of gun violence.

For our dear ones, for our neighbors, for strangers and aliens, and those known to you alone, Loving God,
Make us instruments of your peace.

God of Righteousness, you have given our leaders, especially Barack, our President, the members of Congress, the judges of our courts and members of our legislatures, power and responsibility to protect us and to uphold our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

For all who bear such responsibility, for all who struggle to discern what is right in the face of powerful political forces, Loving God,
Make us instruments of your peace.

God of Compassion, we give you thanks for first responders, for police officers, firefighters and EMTs, and all those whose duties bring them to the streets, the lobbies, the malls and the homes where the carnage of gun violence takes place day after day. Give them courage and sound judgment in the heat of the moment and grant them compassion for the victims.

For our brothers and sisters who risk their lives and their serenity as they rush to our aid, Loving God,
Make us instruments of your peace.

Merciful God, bind up the wounds of all who suffer from gun violence, those maimed and disfigured, those left alone and grieving, and those who struggle to get through one more day. Bless them with your presence and help them find hope.

For all whose lives are forever marked by the scourge of gun violence, Loving God,
Make us instruments of your peace.

God Who Remembers, may we not forget those who have died in the gun violence that we have allowed to become routine. Receive them into your heart and comfort us with your promise of eternal love and care.

For all who have died, those who die today, and those who will die tomorrow, Loving God,
Make us instruments of your peace.

God of Justice, help us, your church, find our voice. Empower us to change this broken world and to protest the needless deaths caused by gun violence. Give us power to rise above our fear that nothing can be done and grant us the conviction to advocate for change.

For your dream of love and harmony, Loving God,
Make us instruments of your peace.

All this we pray in the name of the One who offered his life so that we might live, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.


Comments (35)

  1. Wendy Owens says:

    So “gun violence” is the only kind of violence we care about?

    1. Christine Moseley says:

      I’d say this week we need to focus on gun violence- not that it is all we care about but 93 people dead over the weekend from guns seems like a reason to focus. Domestic violence, sexual violence,violence against the children of God for any reason should be part of our prayers always. Good to be reminded.

    2. Heidi Shott says:

      This litany was originally written for the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath last December. Bishop Lane wrote it because we couldn’t find one to share with the churches in the Diocese of Maine. It seemed right to share it widely this week. Sadly, there are other litanies that need to be written to offer up prayers and calls to action for other types of violence.

      Here’s one of his columns about domestic violence and guns on the Bishops United Against Gun Violence site:

      Hope this helps.
      Heidi Shott
      Canon for Communication and Advocacy
      Episcopal Diocese of Maine

      1. Wendy Owens says:

        Thanks for your response. It seems that the litany would be stronger, and less polarizing, if it addressed all violence and didn’t focus on a tool. By focusing on guns and not on the causes of violence, this litany runs the risk of devaluing the victims of violence and of demonizing those of us who own and use guns lawfully and responsibly. (Yes, I’m a gun owner.) I’d like the Bishops United Against Gun Violence to hear from more Episcopalians who own guns and are committed to working to reduce violence.

        1. Jonathan Chesney says:

          Literally our country leads the developed world for gun violence, even adjusting for population. It’s a reasonable thing to pray about. I’m a gun owner and I have both victims of gun violence and victims of other violence in my life, and I think this litany sounds helpful, powerful, and appropriate.

        2. Sandy Stone says:

          Wendy I agree with you . The person responsible for the tragedy in Orlando could just have easily used fertilizer to blow the place up. I think I am one of the few people on my side of the fence who believes the problem is not so much about the weapon used as about the pathology of the person that causes mayhem, fear, and damage and death.

          1. Charles Browning says:

            But he didn’t use fertilizer. If it were just as easy, as you say, he’d probably have done so (seems it would have been more effective for his goals). Instead, he used guns. Legally obtained guns.

          2. Lorraine Rosen says:

            I agree with you Charles. I too own guns that I use for sport and home protection. I agree that if someone want to shoot up a place, they will find a way to obtain the guns they want, and that is because they don’t have to necessarily buy them legally. We need to pray that this country starts to seriously address the issue of gun trafficking and the illegal guns that most criminals have easy access to. Pray that we get a President and Congress that is wise enough and tough enough to do that job. Pray for Illegal guns to be eliminated from our streets and our cities.

        3. Mary Ann Hill says:

          I know at least one of the bishops, a former police officer, owns a gun. He’s spoken about that openly. I understand it’s hard not to feel defensive but this really isn’t about picking on responsible gun owners. And “gun violence”, as opposed to guns, does cover the other facets of this.

      2. Rick Taylor says:

        We must do something about America’s insane obsession about guns. They are the easiest and quickest tool for murder so limiting their use would be a good first step. Also, we should encourage the sale of “smart” guns; where only the owner can fire the gun.

    3. Jonathan Chesney says:

      No, it’s not the only violence we care about; but it certainly is on our minds the week following one of the deadliest gun massacres of our day.

    4. T.G. Collins says:

      Fertilizer and diesel fuel were the ingredients of the bomb that killed 168 in Oklahoma City. Perhaps another example would better serve. Continued Blessings.

      1. Mary Ann Hill says:

        As a priest in the Diocese of Oklahoma, I have to say no, it wouldn’t, and please don’t use the Murrah Building bombing as a red herring.

    5. Lorraine Rosen says:

      I believe that no one should ever refer to a firearm as a “toy.” I know it was said in a sarcastic manner, but this site has nothing to do with sarcasm. It is about prayer regarding a serious subject. As a responsible firearms owner, I would never refer to my guns as toys. When used responsibly for sport, they are just like a baseball bat . When used irresponsibly, to hurt someone, they are deadly weapons, but so are automobiles, fertilizer, gasoline, and knives. What we need to pray for is for people to stop hating. Hate is what fuels the use of any of these items to be used as objects that contribute to death. Pray for the world to stop hating. Stop hating people you don’t know just because they are different. If someone is a decent human being but dresses differently, it doesn’t make them a person to be feared. It is only those who threaten us that we should fear. We need to pray that those who mean to do us harm are stopped so that the world can take a breath and get back to the work that God wants us to do. Prayer is a powerful thing. Please pray for the world.

  2. William Flint says:

    What about a Liturgy for the babies killed in abortions? If the TEC doesn’t get a handle of progressive issues, I fear many members will be looking for more moderate or conservative churches.

    1. Peter Champion says:

      Is this response really necessary at this time, 2 days after the murder of 49 people in a gay night club? It seems urgent to me right now to ask God’s help in addressing the scourge of gun violence in our nation and to grieve the loss of these men and women whose lives were taken by a man who was by any measure severely conflicted and prone to physical and verbal violence.

  3. Marc Mason says:

    This business of “Barack, our president” has a tone of affection and political endorsement that I think is inappropriate in a religious liturgy.

    1. Zoe Holland says:

      Marc, Part of “The Prayers of the People” every Sunday, includes a paragraph of prayer for our
      leaders. President, Governors, Mayors. What is wrong with a tone of affection? This is a Year of Mercy, after all.

    2. Jed Holdorph says:

      The phrasing of “Barack, our president” is entirely consistent with other forms of the Prayers of the People and appropriate here, for that reason. We pray for “N., our president” regardless of whether it is the president of our choosing, implying nothing more in terms of either affection of political endorsement.

    3. Dorothy M. Harrelson says:

      Mr. Mason, You are entitled to your opinion about what is appropriate to include in a religious liturgy, and perhaps you are unfamiliar with the Prayers of the People section of the Book of Common Prayer. This can be found on pages 383 – 395. The rubrics, or directions for which intercessions are to be included are as follows: The Universal Church, its members, and its mission; The Nation and all in authority; The welfare of the world; The concerns of the local community; Those who suffer and those in any trouble; The departed (with commemoration of a saint when appropriate). To the best of my recollection, President Barack Obama (or any other president of the USA) is one of those persons “in authority” in the Nation, therefore we often do pray by name for him as well as for the governor of the state in which the prayers are being said.
      It has nothing to do with “a tone of affection and political endorsement” as you have suggested. Even if you dislike our president (as you seem to imply by stating this concern), consider this: Jesus has commanded us to pray for our enemies. Perhaps you could bring yourself to do so?

    4. Michael Staley says:

      We have prayed for our president for a long time, no matter his political party. See Form I (BCP 384), and other places (BCP 390, 820, 821). So no, it is not affection or political endorsement. And, we are instructed to pray not only for those who champion our causes and channel our voices, but especially those with whom we disagree, even our enemies. Including prayers for our president and leaders of government couldn’t be more appropriate for this liturgy and all of our liturgies.

    5. Sara Sather says:

      It is totally “appropriate”…in the Episcopal church we pray for the leaders of our nation in our Prayers of the People all the time…it has nothing to do w/politics…it is praying “for the nation and all in authority” and Barack is our leader at present time.

    6. Anne Ferguson says:

      This has been used for years for many presidents. It is entirely appropriate and extremely important at this time.

    7. Todd Bruce says:

      I don’t suspect that form of having any political intention. The 1559 Prayer Book uses the form “Elizabeth, our most gracious Queen and governor” in the Litany, and “Elizabeth our queen” in the prayers in the Holy Communion liturgy. The “first name, official position” formula is traditional and common, and that’s probably why it has been used. My church prayed for “George, our president,” and then the Sunday after the inauguration switched to “Barack, our president,” and next January we will pray for “N., our president,” even if some of us don’t like “N.” I find it helpful in reminding me, when it’s an official I wish weren’t in that position, that they are a child of God, in a position of great authority and influence, and that I should pray for them even if I disagree with them.

    8. William Flint says:

      Maybe the time has come in such a political environment that is as divisive as this one to rethink this practice and find a more generic way of saying the same thing. The United Methodists when using a common prayer and not a pastoral prayer usually pray for the leaders of the nations of the world inclusive of all elected officials in the federal, state, county and local governments.

      TEC has split more than once over issues with the BCP.

  4. Rick Lewis says:

    What a thoughtful and powerful litany to comfort those in sorrow at such a difficult time. Let us not bicker among each other about what topic is most important. Just for today let us unite in compassion and support for those who have lost and suffered so much.

  5. Wm. Thomas Martin says:

    I don’t understand the responses to this request ~ why does it appear that everything has to be a struggle. Is it not possible for a people bound together in the Baptismal Covenant to seek peace with one another and bring an end to all forms of violence, strife, and discord, and be of one mind in Christ for the sake of the human community?

  6. Jose W. Mestre says:

    Yes, I agree about the the tone of what can be interpreted as a political endorsement for the president. Suffice to say “…you have given us leaders, our president, the members of congress…”

  7. Thank you for this valuable liturgical resource.

  8. Jay Lassiter says:

    The litany does not say one word about gun restrictions or gun control. Surely it is appropriate to pray for victims of gun violence. Saying we have to address all forms of violence at this time is like saying it is inappropriate to address breast cancer because there are other forms of cancer that kill and maim people.

  9. Russ Hoyser says:

    Gun violence is undeniably terrible. Unfortunately, there are more victims of domestic violence in less than one week than gun violence in one year, but domestic violence victims only become a headline if a gun is involved. Worse still are the FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics related to blunt and edged weapon violence victims. May we stop focusing on one branch of the tree and address the disease that is attacking the forrest: violence.

  10. Deacon Katharine Armentrout says:

    My heart is bleeding. I turned to this website to find ideas about acting in concert as Episcopalians to address some of the violence issues facing us as a country in the wake of Orlando. And what here? Bickering, angry, back and forth quarrels about a prayer, a prayer! This is just like a discussion on MSNBC or Fox News; not like a discussion I hoped to find in my church. Somehow this message-board speaks volumes about how wretchedly divided we are as a nation and, now sadly, even as the church.

  11. Martha Richards says:

    I’m reading about what we should be praying for. At the moment the people of Orlando who were killed or injured an d their families are the focus. We always need to pray for people who are hurting. Now, as Episcopalians/Anglicans, we need to join together to hold everyone who is hurting up in prayer. And we need to stop arguing about what is more important to pray about. JOIN TOGETHER AND PRAY FOR PEACE.

  12. Evil is the result of fear. Fear is the opposite of Love. God is Love. Guns are not for protection. Guns are for killing living creatures, God’s creatures. In the Bible we are commanded to “Fear not; Be not afraid; Have no fear.” —-Three hundred sixty-six times we are given that commandment! If we love our enemies and believe that love overpowers fear and defeats fear, there is no need for guns. If we follow Jesus, we believe Jesus word’s, and we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. If we believe in eternal life, we have no fear of death. By the way, I love you.

  13. Ace Wyatt says:

    June 21st I survived a shooting. My neighbor, and friend, had a psychotic break and turned a shotgun and semi automatic 22 on us. Dozens of bullets are embedded in our brick walls outside, with ten penetrating and being embedded in our interior walls. Four shotgun blasts, the first of which missed my moms head by a second, came through out windows. We were under siege for fifty minutes. SWAT was called, THREE volleys of shots peppered my home during this time and it is a miracle that my family is even still standing. So you don’t like the words “gun violence”? Well, let me tell you this- a man who was once our friend terrorized us in a way that would have been absolutely impossible to do with a knife. We can scream and cry about how polarizing the term Gun Violence is our you can focus on what really is important…..the victims. Gun violence exists, that is undeniable. It is an epidemic in our country, also undeniable. It seems that the topic gets brought up and many jump to this idea that if we acknowledge gun violence we are somehow taking something away from responsible gun owners. Let me clear: This prayer is not about responsible gun owners. It is not about gun owners at all. It is about acknowledgement that people are harmed and terrorized every day with a weapon that can kill you in a second. Don’t politicize this and take the comfort we can offer through prayer away from those who really need the reassurance. I think you’ll be surprised to know how many people in your own community have fallen victim to gun violence.

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