Centering Prayer for Peace, Love, & Action

A prayer inspired by Luke 24:36b-48 and 1 John 3:16-18 and written for the Mennonite Action mass call on 4/18.

Spirit of Peace,
who is eternal and who is now,
we are thankful that your presence knows no bounds.
Come into the chaos and the hope and the uncertainty of this moment,
gently tend to the wounds in our body-minds,
and root us in peace.

Spirit of Love,
who is eternal and who is now,
we are thankful for the creative connection you inspire.
Come into the longing and the joy and the fears of this moment,
so that the spark of true love that is within us all
will blossom into action.


image: Yakup Ipek, Pixabay

Remembering Our Baptism: A Ritual of Water

For my Doctor of Ministry class this week, we were assigned the task of creating a ritual related to the course’s themes: Worship, Ecology, and Social Change. We brought the rituals into the class to trial. Below is the ritual I designed and wrote (with the exception of the opening prayer), and it is intended, in this form, to be used with a fully online group. It could easily be adapted for in-person groups or hybrid groups. Words for the ritual facilitator are in italics.

Welcome and Gathering Prayer

[Participants are invited to gather a glass of water or other drink derived from the water of their location, e.g., tea or coffee.]

This morning, we celebrate the gift of water. A gift that has channeled the love of the Divine since the beginning of time. God’s gift flowing out of a big bang, of mysteries within mysteries. A blessing born and reborn in the cycles of life that flowed before us, into us, and we pray will flow beyond us. At three points in this ritual, we’ll pause together to receive the gift of water (or tea/coffee). 

As a way of centering into this space, we will begin with “A Prayer of Blessing Water” by Roberta Egli.

Gathering Prayer*

I will read the “One” and invite you to unmute, joining in after I say “Together…” with the response, “God’s love flows through the water.”

One: In the beginning water cradled us in the womb
Holding us in suspension until we burst forth in the waters of Birth
Many: God’s love flows through the water

One: In the desert a small drop of water causes life to bloom
A tiny drop of water can quench our burning thirst for justice
Many: God’s love flows through the water

One: In the roots of our being water provides sustenance
Without water our lives would shrivel and wither
Many: God’s love flows through the water

One: In the times when we feel sullied and broken
We long to be reawakened by soaking in forgiving, transforming love
Many: God’s love flows through the water

One: All water is holy.
A sign that we have passed through troubles,
That we have been refreshed by a gift of life
Sustained by a love poured over us.
Many: God’s love flows through the water

One: In the aftermath of water…
Flowing, pouring, falling, dropping, gushing, spilling, surging, tumbling, showering…
is the rainbow sign of God’s continuing love at work within us and through us.
Many: God’s love flows through the water.

The Waters of Our Birth

We have then before us our blessed water, and we move into three opportunities for receiving the gift of water.

We begin by remembering together the waters of our birth, and in doing so, remember our ancestors—biological ancestors, ancestors in faith, transcestors, or others—and the watersheds that nourished the ecosystems in which they lived. I invite you to offer in the chat, or to speak aloud, the names of ancestors whose stories feel close to you this day, and if you know it, you may also name a water source that supported these ancestors.

[allow time for people to offer names and watersheds]

One: Spirit of the Deep,
Remembering these ancestors and our ancestral waters, 
we receive the gift of water before us,
and we drink in gratitude for the waters of the past.



The Waters of Our Baptism

We turn our mind-bodies to the memories of our baptisms. Whether as infants or adults, we imaginatively remember the experience of being welcomed into the universal family and Body of Christ through the gift of water. As it feels comfortable, I invite you to push into that memory, tracing back where the waters for your baptism came from—the water source used to fill the font, to fill the pitcher, or the body of water in which you were immersed. 

Again, as you feel led, I invite you to offer in the chat or to speak aloud the names of the water source in which you were baptized. It’s okay if you don’t know the watershed area/name; a local creek, river, pond, or lake whose name you know is a part of the intersecting threads of the waterways and is also welcome!

[allow time for people to offer water sources]

One: God of all places,
Remembering our baptismal waters,
we receive the gift of water before us,
and we drink in gratitude for the creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes, oceans, and the deep, hidden waters that nourish our spiritual journeys.



The Waters of Our Beloved Community

And finally, surrounded by the memories of our ancestors, of our baptisms, and the waters that have brought us to this point, we bring our attention to the present. We open our hearts to the waters that sustain us and the Beloved Community of our ecosystems. We pause to recognize that since time immemorial, and during white colonization and occupation of this land, each of our watersheds has been stewarded by Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. We likely have different roles in this story, but we share this day a mutual hope for the health of this water. In faith, we envision a future with clean water for generations to come.

I invite you, as you feel led, to share aloud or in the chat the names of the Indigenous peoples who currently or historically stewarded the waters where you live. It’s okay if you do not know the names of the Indigenous peoples at this time. You may also share an intention for your relationship with water or your watershed.

[allow time for people to offer Indigenous people groups & intentions]

Before we pause this final time to give thanks, I wanted to note that we’ll have a few moments to drink our water/tea/coffee together while listening to the song Take Me to the Water, performed by the Blind Boys of Alabama. Feel free to let the music move you and your body, even as you drink, if the Spirit so inspires.  

One: Source and Sustainer,
Remembering the waters that quench our present thirst,
we receive the gift of water before us,
and we drink in gratitude for those who steward it today with a hope for the future.

Friends, take this water and drink. Taste and see that it is good!

Song: Take Me To the Water


Receive this blessing.

One: God’s love flows through the water
and that love now flows through us,
into our communities and into our earth,
refreshing, renewing, and transforming us all.

*Roberta J. Egli, “Prayer of Blessing Water,” for Reconciling Ministries Worship at General Conference, Pittsburgh, 2004.

A Prayer of Lament and Repentance

In a recent worship series on Indigenous Justice at MMC,* I wrote the following prayer. As wars and violence rage around the world and across our news feeds, there is work for peace we can do right here, right now.

Eternal Presence—
Liberator and Deliverer
we cry out to you, 
confessing our faltering fasts.

Our relationship with the land is distorted by greed, fear, and short-sightedness,
and we have not always been good neighbors or stewards of the earth’s gifts.

When you called for liberation,
we tightened the ropes that bind us and our relations.

When you shared a kin-dom vision of restoration
we feigned busyness and blindness.

Forgive us for our apathy, 
our willful ignorance,
our half-hearted commitment to our own transformation. 
Shake the despair from our bones.
Awaken our hearts.
God of mercy, hear our prayer.
(silence for reflection)

Inspired by the mercy of God,
the example of Jesus,
and the enduring presence of the Holy Breath, may we be:
Healers of relationship;
Tenders to the land;
Breakers of chains;
Restorers of ruined neighborhoods;
Campaigners of hope;
Lovers of the living waters; 
Pilgrims on paths of peace.

May it be so.

*A full outline and worship resource on this series is slated to be published in the Leader magazine in Spring 2025.

A Communion Liturgy for One Dying of Terminal Illness

A brief liturgy to share when a sibling in faith is drawing close to death.

Words of Preparation
Sensing that his days were numbered, Jesus gathered around his friends and family—all those who had journeyed with him along the way. They told stories, shared memories, sang songs, marveled at the miracle of honeybees…*

Knowing that these beloveds would need courage for the days ahead, Jesus invited them to join him at a table.

Words of Institution
And taking some bread into his hands, Jesus gave thanks for it.

Then he said, “This is my body, breaking for you. Take it, and eat, and be made whole.” [Share the bread and eat together.]

In the same way, he took a cup of wine into his hands. And he gave thanks for it.

Then he said, “This is the love that flows through my veins. Take it, and drink, and know that you are loved.” [Share the juice/wine and drink together.]

Words of Thanksgiving
The gifts of God for God’s beloved. Thanks be to God.

Sharing the Peace of Christ
May the peace, courage, and love of the Cosmic Christ be with you, now and always. And also with you.

*Include other bespoke wording to reflect what has been important, particularly in these last days, to the person and those who surround them.

Genesis 1:1-5 – Call to Worship

A call to worship, based on the NRSVUE version of Genesis 1:1-5.

One:  When God began to create the heavens and the earth, 
Many: the earth was complete chaos, 
and darkness covered the face of the deep, 

One: at the same time, a rushing wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said,

Many: Let there be light.
One: And there was light.
The light and darkness were distinct,
Many: And God called them good.

One: God named the light, Day
Many: and the darkness, Night.
One: There was evening and there was morning, the first day.

All: Swept in by the Breath of God, 
we gather in the goodness of this moment to worship the Creator.

Ignatian Imagination Prayer: Luke 1:39-55

The Ignatian Imagination Prayer is a sensory, engaging spiritual practice that encourages one’s imagination to run free with the Spirit through scripture. Teresa A. Blythe writes in her book, 50 Ways to Pray, that the intent of this practice is “to imagine that you are physically present” in a particular scripture, “and to allow that scene to become a prayer for you.” (p 100)

Especially for passages that we know (or think we know) well, this spiritual exercise invites us to look, listen, and feel again. To be open to an awareness of words and emotions we hadn’t noticed before. To let the scripture speak to us in our present experience.

This practice can be used by individuals or in a group. To use it on your own, simply read slowly through the passage and the questions, taking the time you want to enter into each portion. Allow about twenty minutes to go through the following scripture. Jot down your experience in a journal, if you like, and any insights that dwelling in the word brought you.

For use in a group, read through the passage and questions, allowing more time than you think might be necessary. (As one who has received guided meditation before, I often feel rushed in my imaginings!) You may want to invite shared reflection at the end. A pdf version of this reflection is available here.

Prayer of preparation

Spirit of New Life, I/we ask for grace:
that all my/our intentions, my/our actions, and my/our imaginings
will be used for the service and praise of the Divine. Amen. 

Ignatian Imagination Prayer

Within a few days [of the angel Gabriel’s visit to her], Mary set out and hurried to the hill country to a town of Judah, where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.

  • Take a moment to imagine yourself in this scene, not necessarily taking on the character of Mary or Elizabeth (or Zechariah). Simply be an observer for now. 
  • What do you notice about Mary as she hurries down the roads of Judah? Does her face tell you anything about how she’s feeling? 
  • What time of year is it in in Judah? What do you smell?
  • What does Zechariah and Elizabeth’s house look like? As Mary nears the house, when does she call out to Elizabeth? What does she say? Where is Elizabeth when she hears Mary call her name?

As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 

  • In your mind’s eye, notice how Mary and Elizabeth meet face-to-face.
  • What does it look like as the Holy Spirit settles on Elizabeth? Is there a visible change, or do you feel a shift in your surroundings? 
  • Imagine Mary notices you, and calls out to you, too, to join their delighted embrace. Does anything move in you—does your heart beat quicker or your stomach do little flip flops? Stay there, in the scene, as a full participant in the story.

In a loud voice, Elizabeth exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why am I so favored, that the mother of the Messiah should come to me? The moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who believed that what our God said to her would be accomplished.”

  • What is the energy like in the room as Elizabeth shouts this blessing? After her long journey, how does Mary react to Elizabeth’s words? Does anyone or anything else in the area also join the scene, drawn in by Elizabeth’s excitement?
  • Do you eagerly join in the blessing, or do you hold back? 

Mary said:
“My soul proclaims your greatness, O God,
and my spirit rejoices in you, my Savior.
For you have looked with favor
upon your lowly servant,
and from this day forward
all generations will call me blessed.
For you, the Almighty, have done great things for me
and holy is your Name.

  • What does Mary’s song sound like? Is it in a major key or minor key; a rapid tempo or meandering pace? Does she start out tentatively or boldly? How is she moving her body? 
  • Do you feel an impulse to sing or sway along? What is Elizabeth doing?

You have shown strength with your arm;
you have scattered the proud in their conceit;
you have deposed the mighty from their thrones
and raised the lowly to high places.
You have filled the hungry with good things,
while you have sent the rich away empty.

  • What emotions cross Mary’s face as she describes God’s actions? Are there hints of rage, hope, frustration, or joy? How does the tune and volume of her singing shift in these stanzas?
  • As you hear her revolutionary words, sung there in your presence, do you feel nervous…or comforted?  

You have come to the aid of Israel your servant,
mindful of your mercy—
the promise you made to our ancestors—
to Sarah and Abraham
and their descendants forever.”

  • As Mary’s song ends, survey the scene again. Look all around you. What do you notice? Has anything changed between Mary’s arrival and now? 
  • Notice your body in the scene—emotions, sensations, tension.
  • What do Elizabeth and Mary do following this greeting, blessing, and song?
  • Let your full imagination run free now. Allow the scene to change in any way you feel inspired. Linger and interact with the characters there.  What are you doing? Do you go off to tell someone about your experience? How do you describe what happened?

Either in a journal or in a group discussion, take time to reflect on the experience. What does it mean to make ready for the birth of the Divine within us? Consider how Mary and Elizabeth prepared.

What does this mean to you? What part of the story helps you lean into a welcoming spirit? What part of the story disturbs you most? What insight does this imaginative exercise provide?

Close by offering a prayer of thanksgiving to God or pray a version of the Prayer Jesus Taught.

Scripture from The Inclusive Bible translation.

Image: Everett, Trey. Blessed Is She, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved December 20, 2021]. Original source:

Call to Worship: All Saints & All Souls

A call to worship for All Saints / All Souls 2021. Inspired, in part, by lectionary texts of Psalm 24 and Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9.

The earth and everything on it—
the world and all who live in it—
belong to the Ancient One.

Fellow pilgrims and beloved friends—
new neighbors and old foes—
here are held in the hand of God.

All saints and all souls and all sinners—
their stories and their lives, our memories and our grief—
are pieced together by the Quilter of Life.

Ones who belong,
Ones who are held,
Ones who pieced together,
We enter with hope this holy place of worship.

Autumn Equinox

In our backyard, a gorgeous, expansive oak hovers with a regal grandeur, providing shade and scurrying space for the squirrels, chipmunks, blue jays, and goldfinches. The last few weeks, the oak has been dropping thousands of acorns, which plummet to the earth with a powerful velocity. (One does not want to be sitting under her branches when there is any wind, lest an acorn drops with forceful precision on an exposed head…) It’s clear that autumn is arriving as the boughs sigh with relief as they lighten with each released acorn.

Tomorrow marks the autumn equinox here in the northern hemisphere of Planet Earth. In Madison, the weather has subtly shifted with the days still (mostly) bright and warm, and the nights cool and breezy. In this threshold between seasons, the earth reminds me to prepare for the winter ahead. The annuals and perennials alike are shifting their focus, nudging me, too, to let go of those things that were wonderful for a season, but now need to be put to rest…perhaps until next spring, or perhaps for good.

O Spirit of Change,
prepare my heart for the winter ahead,
but not before I have celebrated the fruit of summer.
In this Great Transition Time,
as the earth continues in its path,
may I sense, like the Mother Oak,
a lightening in my body,
as the gifts of the long summer days
drop to their earthen womb below.

Prayer of Remembrance

For a Year of Distanced Worship

Today at Madison Mennonite, we round out a full year of worshipping distanced–a sobering, disappointing, and often discouraging reality…while also a testament to the Spirit’s faithfulness in all circumstances.

We are taking some time today and in our Koinonia Groups next week to hold the tension, grief, and anxiety of the last year. It feels important–necessary, even–to mourn the pain that the pandemic has caused: bodily, relational, emotional, economic, spiritual pain.

Then there are the divisions that have emerged or grown more obvious: cracks within familial relationships, extreme othering within political discourse, racial inequity.

Yet I think it’s important, as the church, to recognize that some of the divisions, like physical distancing, have emerged for the sake of community and the love of neighbor.  This purposeful distancing is counter-intuitive for Christ-followers, and yet it aligns with the call to think bigger, beyond ourselves, from what’s good for a few to what’s good for the collective.

These are complicated, contradicting, and disorienting realities.  I am hoping that our world grows a little gentler this week, as we hold space for ourselves and for one another. So many are dealing with pandemic-inflicted wounds that are still tender to the touch. I pray for God’s grace to abound.

A Congregational Prayer of Remembrance
Eternal Presence,
This has been a strange year.
Disorienting and isolating for some, 
liberating and full of opportunity for others,
our experiences are disparate.

As we look back on this year, O God,
help us be gentle with ourselves and with one another.
Draw us together in curiosity and compassion.
Unite us in our common commitments,
to loving our neighbors,
extending the tables piled high with grace,
as we continue to seek your reign in our midst.

We give you thanks, Abiding Spirit,
for journeying with us,
renewing our spirits
through the generosity of this Beloved Community.
In Christ’s holy name we pray. Amen.