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Services : “Vigil for the Gulf”
Order of Service
Chalice Lighting : "In our time of grief:" (#454, SLT)
Opening Song: “We are a Gentle Angry People” vs. 1,2,6 (#170, SLT)
Prayer: "A Prayer of Sorrow" (#478, SLT)
A Silent Witnessing
Song: “Comfort Me” (#1002, STJ)
Sharing The Congregation
Song: “Blue Boat Home” (#1064, STJ)
Welcome to our sanctuary
We are here tonight to hold vigil, to pay attention, to observe, to watch, to witness to the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and to hold in our hearts all who are affected by this ongoing environmental disaster.
We are here tonight because we have faith that gathering in community, that being with our brothers and sisters is sometimes the most powerful healing we can offer to ourselves and to our world. Whether you have gathered with us many times before, or are joining us for the first time, tonight we are one community of compassion and concern. I thank each of you for being here with us tonight.
Let’s join together in a time of silence. Notice whatever feelings and thoughts emerge Drop down into your self, and take time to be with whatever arises for you.
Often when something horrible happens our first response is numbness or shock. We wait until we understand the magnitude of what is happening so that we can respond appropriately.
On April 20 an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil drilling platform about 40 miles off the Louisiana Coast killed 11 platform workers and injured 17 others. We felt sad and outraged at the deaths of these people. And at that moment of the explosion, a massive gush of oil burst free, and continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico. Many of us were reminde of the Exxon Valdese oil spill in 1989, and were saddened or angered that an accident of that magnitude could happen again, we remembered that the claims for injury and damage are only now being settled these many years later.
But despite many different efforts to close the well, the gush of oil continues. We waited, as a nation, to hear of the end of the spill to understand the magnitude of what had happen, to grieve, to repair, and to heal. But despite all those efforts, the gush of oil continues. The estimates are now at 12,000 to 100,000 barrels per day. It is now the largest oil spill in US territorial waters, and the slick covers 2,500square miles, and still the oil gushes. We are powerless to help stop this ongoing disaster.
For me, it wasn’t until the oil began to reach those fragile marshlands on the coast that I realized the time for waiting was long past. I am angry, I am sad, I feel powerless to help. The eco-feminist Joanna Macy believes that it is our own despair over the pain in the world that keeps us from being fully present to it. Today I call on all of us here to pause, even while this disaster is still unfolding, even as oil continues to gush, as it comes ashore, as it enters the Loop Current, I call us to grieve what there is to grieve.
Today we pause to grieve the death and injury of people, the death and injuries of animals, the sickness of ecosystems, the broken-ness of our society that is exposed by these unfolding events. If we are willing to look those realities in the face, perhaps it will allow us to wake from our despair and do whatever it is we can do. We can and should continue to send donations to organizations who are protecting ecosystems and communities along the Gulf. We can and should write our legislators to let them know how we feel, and how we want them to respond. We can stay alert and informed for whatever the future holds, because even once the gush of oil has been contained, this explosion has caused a wound in our earth that will take a long time to heal, and will leave scars. So today, like those at the bed of a sick friend, we hold those most deeply impacted by this event in our hearts.
A Silent Witnessing
Now in the silence of our hearts we offer our prayers and compassion to those affected by this unfolding tragedy:
For the 11 platform workers who died in the explosion and for their families. For all those who were injured on the rig.
For those who work to contain the spill and protect fragile ecosystems and communities from its toxic impacts.
For individuals and communities whose livelihoods depend up on the Gulf of Mexico- shrimpers and fishers and farmers.
For the creatures of the ocean, the dolphins and tuna, whose home is now toxic and cannot support life
For the coral and those animals who call the coral reefs home,
For the plants and animals who make their home in the marshlands and along the coasts, The nesting and migrating shore birds, shrimp, pelicans and whose home the oil and dispersing chemicals is now reaching
For the sea turtles who migrate in the warm waters of the gulf during these months, and who are in their peak nesting season.
For the people who live near the coast where oil is reaching shore, for communizes that are still rebuilding after hurricanes.
For the web of life of which we are all a part- and all the ecosystems that risk exposure from our human errors.
For the people and beings who live in the path of the gulf stream and the loop current and wonder what the coming months will bring.
For our our federal and state governments who have some important decisions to make, may they act quickly and wisely to heal this wound and to prevent spills like this from happening in the future.
For ourselves, that we may walk humbly in the path of justice and right relationships with all life.
There will be a time now for each of us to light a candle of concern about the oil spill in the Gulf Coast. You can either do this in silence, or if you choose you can speak to this beloved community your feelings and concerns and questions. Whenever you feel moved to light a candle and to speak, or simply to light a candle in silence, please come here to the front of the sanctuary.
May the earth continue to live
May the heavens above continue to live
May the rains continue to dampen the land
May the wet forests continue to grow
Then the flowers shall bloom
And we people shall live again.
Note: The litany used during “A Silent Witnessing” is adapted from the "Prayers of the People" in the NCC resource, Prayers for the Gulf. The Closing Words are a traditional Hawaiian prayer found in Earth Prayers (ed. Roberts and Amidon) as well as numerous web sites
Copyright: The author has given Unitarian Universalist Association member congregations permission to reprint this piece for use in public worship. Any reprints must acknowledge the name of the author.
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Last updated on Monday, February 4, 2013.