We are starting to reopen slowly in Québec after months of isolation and lockdown. I am now able to visit people in long-term care residences, but under very strict protocols. In the time BP (before pandemic), we held a weekly worship service in one of the residences on Wednesdays, but that hasn’t happened since March. And when I spoke to the animator at the residence under my care, I was told that it may be as long as 18 months before we can gather as a group. Given the age and physical health of most of the residents, this likely means that – for many of them – they have already had their last communal worship service.

The churches I serve have decided to open for worship on August 2nd, which I think is a sensible decision. We do not have a majority of seniors, and people have been missing worshiping together. Since March 15th, I have been leading worship online, and, frankly, I am getting tired of it. The only face I see is mine, since we do not use Zoom. The only voice I hear is mine. And every Sunday, I look at myself on the screen, and all I can think is that I look dreadful. We will continue to livestream after we open, but there won’t be such close-ups of my face.

July is normally a month of celebrations both here and in the United States. As I write this, it is July 1st – Canada Day – and as  you read it, it is July 4th – Independence Day. In my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, July 1st is remembered as the date on which the Battle of Beaumont Hamel took place. It was one of the most ill-conceived battles of World War I. The losses sustained by the Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont-Hamel on July 1, 1916, were staggering. Of the some 800 Newfoundlanders who went into battle that morning, only 68 were able to answer the roll call the next day, with more than 700 killed, wounded or missing. My grandmother from Newfoundland lost a brother in this battle, and my father was named for him.

Just two years later, the Spanish Influenza happened. My Australian grandmother contracted this, along with her baby girl. Grandmama survived. Patricia did not.

I find it difficult to celebrate in July, and even more difficult this year, when I see so many people disregarding the rules – or recommendations, depending on who is telling you what to do. I see people going maskless, not respecting social distances, and gathering outside of their bubbles. Then I see people whose auto-immune systems are compromised who are unable to leave their homes because they fear being exposed to COVID-19. I see children with PKS who already have a shortened life expectancy contracting the virus and being intubated in the hope that they will survive a little longer. I see black people being treated as less than because they are black. I see indigenous people being ignored or profiled because they are not white. I see women, who have made tremendous strides, suddenly being relegated to lower positions because of their gender. I see LGBTQ+ people being told to keep quiet because nobody wants to hear their stories. My heart is aching this July. It has been aching for some time now. I want it to stop.

I know that people want a joyful prayer this day, but I cannot do it. I cannot bring myself to celebrate our two countries – Canada and the United States – while things are as they are. So instead, I offer a prayer of lament, beginning with a common way of such a prayer.

How long, O Lord, how long?
How long before we realize
That masks are not just an accessory
Something to be tucked in a purse
Or a pocket
But something we need to wear
Every time we are
Likely to be in
Close contact with someone?

How long, O Lord, how long?
How long before we acknowledge
That black lives do matter
And that – even if we
Don’t say or think
Racist things
We are complicit
Through our silence

How long, O Lord, how long?
How long before we support
Our indigenous sisters and brothers
In their struggles for clean water
For the safety of women and girls
For acknowledgement of the way
They were treated
When settlers arrived
In these countries
And claimed them

How long, O Lord, how long?
How long before we accept
That women still are considered
Not quite up to snuff
For the top jobs
And that as women age
They become invisible
And are no longer even considered
Worth listening to

How long, O Lord, how long?
How long before we see
That we are all your beloved children
No matter our preferred pronouns
No matter whom we love
Recognizing that the LGBTQI+
Among us are our siblings

Maybe then
After all this happens
I will be able to celebrate
Maybe then
After all this happens
We will all be able to celebrate
And together
Finally together
We will raise our voices in praise
Amen

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Katherine Burgess was one of the contributors to A Child Laughs: Prayers of Justice and Hope. She also co-wrote a book of daily prayers with Neal Mathers. She is a second-career minister in the Presbyterian Church in Canada, and serves two congregations in Québec. During this time of COVID-19, she has been leading worship via Facebook Live, and is anxious to get back to a sanctuary.


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6 thoughts on “Saturday Prayer

  1. Thank you so much — we truly need to lament all of these things. Add to it this for a smile. My partner Donald always says that (ignoring June) July 5 is the beginning of the days shortening in the northern hemisphere. that’s definitely “the glass quarter full” but also the days are growing short for us to make a difference.

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  2. Thank you. Frankly, I am more concerned about the virus now than I was in March and April. Too many mobile young people are getting it and spreading it around. My church reopened May 17 but I’m not sure how long the mayor will let the reopenings continue as cases are spiking again in my area.

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  3. Thank you. Wanting to celebrate today, but also just cannot. I am so concerned for America and our future. And I miss my family. And I miss in-person church too. Lord, hear our prayer.

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