Unmentionables in the Pulpit

Woman killed in DetroitMany weeks ago, the Sunday after George Zimmerman was found not guilty in Florida, I longed to find peace in a worship service.  I wanted to pray with others who might also be aching over the profound sadness and anger felt after a teenage boy is shot in this country for no reason while nobody is held accountable.

To my astonishment, neither Trayvon Martin nor George Zimmerman were mentioned in worship.  I left feeling a little empty.

I wonder about what was not mentioned yesterday in worship.

  • Was there a church that failed to mention the tragedy in the Philippines?
  • Was there a church in Illinois that failed to note last week’s vote in favor of marriage equality?  (I imagine that some congregations would be thanking God while others are asking for God’s mercy.)
  • Was there a church that failed to mention the sacrifices given by our veterans and their families?

What was not mentioned yesterday in worship and why?

Was there a congregation two Sundays ago that failed to mention that we live in a world where someone can be shot while asking for help – especially if she is a stranger with dark skin?  I’d bet that most congregations did not hear prayers for the family of Renisha McBride.

Some churches do not like “to bring politics” into the pulpit.  But what’s political?

  • Is it political to mention crises resulting from Acts of Nature?  Probably not.
  • Is it political to ask God to work through our leaders to help victims of Acts of Nature? Maybe.
  • Is it political to pray for our leaders and their families after an election? Some would definitely say ‘yes’ especially if they didn’t vote for them.

What is unmentionable  – or simply unmentioned – for pastoral prayers in your congregation?  And why?

Image of Renisha McBride – age 19 – who was shot to death in Dearborn Heights, MI trying to get help after her car broke down.


5 responses to “Unmentionables in the Pulpit

  1. For me, it’s not WHAT is said, it’s HOW it’s said. I struggle when pastors assume they know exactly why tragedy has happened…especially when they try to speak for God, and attempt to push their own political agenda in the name of “God’s will.” That’s the worst sort of “bully pulpit,” for me. I love your encouragement to pause and pray…for victims of tragedy, for leaders, for our country. That’s what church families should be doing together! Thanks, Jan.

    • This is a great point. If it’s a pastoral prayer situation, it seems best to assume that everybody involved needs pastoral care: victims, parents, families, winners, losers, whatever. Thanks for this.

  2. I have come to count on the morning prayer to be the place where my own bewilderment of the week will be mirrored. When I am privileged to be the pray-er–as I was yesterday–I try to remember that.

  3. Good points. I mentioned Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman in my sermon a couple of times and in prayers of the people. Racism is something that I work to hold up as an individual and corporate sin. I was lamenting not having said anything about the typhoon in worship yesterday. For me it is often about focusing on me rather than the world-as in-does this sermon make salient points? Have I rehearsed it? Did I remember to announce what someone asked me right before worship. I thought the article was going to be about sexuality. I haven’t heard anyone preach about, or ask for prayer for any issues pertaining to sexuality other than marriage equality. I wonder if there are resources for doing so. Thanks for your post.

  4. I agree.

    But I’m worried, too, because when I have seen pastors address something, it’s usually been bungled and usually resulted in damage and misunderstandings. I’d rather hear a pastor say nothing than hear a pastor say how Trayvon deserved to be killed.

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