By Sarah Gioe
Photos by Bob Williams
View and share photos from A Service for Justice & Reconciliation.
Lord you are good and your mercy endureth forever.
People from every nation and tongue, from generation to generation,
we worship you!
The exuberant groove of the gospel song "We Worship You" greeted over 250 people of faith as they filled the sanctuary of Saint Peter's Lutheran Church/Sion Iglesia Luterana in Manhattan on January 17. Musicians from New Hope Lutheran Church in Jamaica, Queens led the congregation in an inspiring prelude of praise that had participants clapping and singing along.
The Service for Justice & Reconciliation, hosted by our synod and organized by the Sent Committee, was an opportunity to stand together to call for peace amidst racial tensions in our city and nation. Ecumenical and interfaith leaders, including representatives from Muslim, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and Reformed communities, led a litany for justice while leaders from throughout our synod led prayers for reconciliation.
The uplifting music throughout the service reinforced the themes of unity and healing, as the assembly sang "Let justice flow like streams" and "Lift every voice and sing." The volunteer choir pleaded, "May our actions and our words make us one," as they sang an original piece composed by music director Celeste Wortes. Broadway star Lillias White joined Scott Wakefield on stage to present the song "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" from the musical Texas in Paris before the Tony Award winner broke into an impromptu version of "Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dying Bed."
Preacher Heidi Neumark, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Manhattan, compared our need to confront racism to the poisonous snakes attacking the Israelites in the desert in the book of Numbers. "We’ve already got the poison in our system and there’s no wishing it away," she said. "When we stare down evil, when we face racism, and any godless ism that has its teeth in us…what we find staring back at us is the love of God, more potent than any poison. The antidote of love. The remedy of love." Read the complete sermon here or view the video.
At the end of the service, Bishop Rimbo led the congregation in a charge to the people of the city, the state, and the nation:
"Beloved in the Lord,
God has shown you what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice
and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God."
Deacons were available to anoint people with oil as they left the sanctuary, praying God's blessings on their work of making justice and peace. Participants were then welcome to enjoy refreshments and join a conversation about diversity and unity in their congregations, discussing their hopes for justice and reconciliation. The event is hoped to be the first in a series to address racism in our churches, schools, and communities.