Saturday, March 22, 2008

Five Years of Praying for Peace

Every Lent for the past five years, some of us at St. Mary's, Manhattanville, along with some of our friends, have been singing the Great Litany in procession at the Isaiah Wall in Ralph Bunche Park opposite the United Nations. We are praying for an end to the war in Iraq. This year we did it on the two Fridays preceding Holy Week, and also on Wednesday in Holy Week, the fifth anniversary of the invasion.

The Episcopal Church: Praying for Peace Since 1789
The picture shows most of us who processed on March 14, with a banner which we hung on the fence while we processed. The banner was made by Nathanael Kooperkamp, the son of our rector Earl Kooperkamp, and says "The Episcopal Church: Praying for Peace Since 1789." I don't know the names of three of the people in the picture, so I won't identify anyone except me -- I'm the guy in the brown jacket standing next to the banner.

I was not able to get to the procession on either March 7 or March 19. Today is Holy Saturday and I hope to observe it by joining at noon in River to River -- people joining hands across 14th Street to protest the Iraq war.

Forty years ago the United States was engaged in another war -- in Vietnam. I was not politically conscious then. At St. Mary's we talked about the civil rights movement, but we didn't talk about the war.

I was very interested in what was going on at the Metroplitan Opera. For example, on April 1, 1967, the Met broadcast the new opera "Mourning Becomes Electra;" on April 4, Martin Luther King delivered his speech "A Time to Break Silence" at Riverside Church. I was excited by the opera and completely unconscious of the speech.

Even the events of the spring of 1968 didn't wake me up. I was shocked by the assassinations of Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968 and of Robert F. Kennedy on June 6 the same year. But while I remained strongly stirred by the civil rights movements, I still held to the unexamined belief that we live in a good country. We don't do bad things. We don't engage in unjust wars. So the war could not be a wrong thing. I don't think like that any more.


St. Mary's is a small church and we haven't done a full fledged Easter Vigil in a few years. But we will do a vigil at 6 AM on Easter, complete with new fire, Exsultet, and Paschal candle. I'm going to try to be there.

The peace of the Lord be always with you.

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