Categories
Liturgy Prayers of the People

Intercessory prayer – for those who struggle to love neighbor and self

Beloved,
please join me in lifting up our prayers
to the Creator who loves us so joyfully
that when She finished birthing Her world,
she looked around and cried “Good, very good!” —
to the God who loves us so desperately
that They stripped off omnipotence
and folded Themself into a human body
just to live and love among us.
Together, let us pray:

For those who struggle both to love their neighbor and themselves
after being burned one too many times
by family members or lovers, friends or strangers, bullies or oppressors;

for those who have experienced so much trauma or abuse
that they’re not sure what love looks like
outside of manipulation and humiliation;

for those who fear the vulnerability that love requires
because they still bear wounds from last time they opened themselves,
or because they have been taught
in our world of toxic masculinity and rugged individualism
that to be vulnerable is a weakness to avoid,
we pray.

For those who have been made to feel unloveable
because of their race, their disability, their gender, their sexuality —
those who have been taught that God will only love them
if they play by the rules humans wrote and attributed to God,
if they contort themselves to fit into the status quo,
if they carve out parts of themselves and hide them away,
we pray.

For those who have been taught that love is something they earn
by wearing the right clothes and covering up all blemishes,
by losing that weight or gaining that muscle,
by getting good grades, or getting into the right school,
by having a successful career and making lots of money,
or by having kids and raising them perfectly,
by being nice, by being smart, by being flawless,
we pray.

O God whose blessing is not a trophy, but a gift,
whose love is not control but compassion,
whose power lies not in overpowering but in empowering others,
we offer you our gratitude for hearing every prayer
lifted up in community
or whispered by the cracked and battered heart.

Hold the unloved and love-wounded close;
suffuse them in your love so deep and true
that they can believe how loved they are
and live out that overflowing love among your Creation.

Amen.


I wrote this pastoral prayer for Grace Presbyterian in Tuscaloosa, AL, for a Lenten service centered around John 3:14-21 and particularly what it means for God to “so love the world.”

I had this quote from Kendra DeColo’s “After Seeing The Misfits” in mind as I wrote this prayer:

To believe in a god so obscene
she cannot stop loving us
is to believe in our own goodness, no matter
how rough and unearthed, that one day I will love
back with the indigence of my body. Will hear the roar begin
in my palms and catch fire.

FURTHER READING

Categories
Catholic vibes LGBT/queer My poetry

poem to Our Lady of the Wayside: the queer little not-girl revisits their childhood church.

these pews were once my home
but their backs are to me now.

“you changed. too much you changed” they accuse
without speaking to me
and they gawk
without meeting my eyes.

in the windows your robes
and your son’s
are far too gilt
to be yours,

your skin too white,
too smooth. hairless.
callous-less. Mary, where
are the dirt and sweat
of the rugged roads
your blistered feet trudged out?

what are these false eyes
pale as standing water
where brown eyes deep as rich earth
dark as the secret grove
should be?

those glass eyes stare off
into something too distant to be
the Kin(g)dom of
a skin-swaddled God
a beggar’s flaking palms
a cast-off seed.

but
Maria della Strada,

in your corner you see —
you se
e — me!

their backs are to you, too.

Mary, Mother
of the long and potholed road
no one bothers to patch

Mary, Mother
of refugees and castoffs

of crumbling wayside shrines
that only bruised knees discover

let me sit with you as you nurse
God’s hungry, toothless mouth

and i will gather wildflowers
to crown your unwashed hair.


This poem was written by Avery Smith and belongs to them. Please do not publish it anywhere, or use it in a service, without permission from the author. Reach out to Avery at queerlychristian36@gmail.com for that permission, or just to chat!

About this poem:

“Maria Della Strada” is the Italian form of Our Lady of the Wayside, and a statue of her can be found in my childhood church. Maria Della Strada is a patron of the Ignatians, and Our Lady of the Wayside is a patron of travelers, but I also imagine her as a patron of those left behind on the wayside by churches tied to power.
She is Mary who knew what it was to be an outcast and to embrace impropriety in order to follow after God’s call for her; she is Mary who protects those shoved to the margins and who inspires us to build our sanctuaries there.

I wrote the following about this poem on my instagram back in September 2019:

I wrote this poem a couple Sundays ago after going to Mass for the first time in a long time. I started out in a pew but felt like everyone was staring at me to the point that I could feel panic beginning to clutch at my lungs, restricting my breath — so i awkwardly went and sat in a back corner with a statue of Mary for the entirety of the service.

Ever since my first inkling I might be queer quite some years ago, Mother Mary has felt like a comforting protector — whenever I talk to her about it, I feel nothing but love and acceptance from her, and her desire for me to embrace how God had made me and use my queerness to honor her Son. I was grateful to have her in my corner (literally, ha) that Sunday when I felt too anxious to be seen.

Even so, when I went to Mass again this past Sunday and managed to, ya know, sit in a pew like a normal person, I realized my feeling of being gawked at and cold-shouldered was probably more my anxious imagination than reality. Trauma at being rejected by some Christian groups has led to my brain, body, and spirit developing a cynical shield — better not to trust anyone so I can’t be hurt again. Better to hide myself and shield myself, to assume the worst from the start, than risk opening myself up to community only to receive hatred instead.

The cynicism that had me thinking “no one’s going to join me in this pew, to dirty themselves by sitting by this queer who dares enter the house of God,” was quickly exposed as false by a family with young children sliding into my pew. “Oh…they’re not scared I’ll be a Bad Influence on their kids? Huh. …And… no one is staring?? Sure people are glancing at me but that’s normal; the hostile glares I could have sworn I saw last week just aren’t there.” I was able to relax, just a little bit, to calm my fight-or-flight adrenaline-rush enough to feel like I was truly worshiping God with my fellows in the pews, instead of worshiping God in spite of them like the week before.

…The thing I need cishet Christians to understand is this:

It is so. hard. to enter a non-affirming church (or honestly even an affirming one) as a queer person — especially as a visibly queer and trans person. There is so much trauma and fear built up in my psyche that I can’t help but assume the worst of everyone there. I’m glad I went back to Mass a second week to continue to work through that anxiety — because while it’s certainly not unfounded, I know that God calls me to a sort of vulnerability and trust and openness that is so difficult to achieve when you’re dealing with trauma and marginalization!!

When you have been wounded before by fellow members of the Body of Christ, by people who claim “all are welcome” but then turn on you when you show them who you really are….how do you heal enough to be vulnerable again? How do you know which ones you can trust and which ones will attack?

LGBT/queer Christians: How do we be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” balancing trust with rationality, vulnerability with self-protection? What do you do to prepare yourself to enter a Christian space?

Cishet Christians: what work can you do to help make LGBTQA folks feel truly safe and welcome in your faith spaces?

Categories
Affirmation of Faith Liturgy

Affirmation of faith: self-emptying God who knows our trauma

Alone, we have doubts, and struggle to believe,
but in community we have all the faith that God requires of us,
even if only the tiniest mustard seed. 
So as one, let us affirm our faith:

We believe in the God of Moses, God the Liberator,
Who revealed Their name from a burning bush,
Who chooses self-restraint in order to leave room for our free will.

We believe in Jesus Christ, who opens his arms to our unbelief
for he knew what it was to be human,
to experience fear, grief, and pain —
even the trauma of the cross.

Though God, he had no interest in exaltation, but chose self-emptying: 

In Jesus, Divinity stripped off omnipotence 
becoming utterly dependent on a human womb; he grew, learned,
and leaned into interdependence within a human community.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent to us
after his rising to be God in our midst:
Disrupter of authority, Upturner of the status quo,
Kindler of curiosity and Breath of rebirth in times of upheaval. 

We believe that this Triune God, whose name evokes Steadfastness,
dwells in our midst yesterday, today, and for all time,
empowering our partnership and renewing all of Creation.

Amen.


I wrote this for a virtual service centered around trauma and community’s role in the journey to recovery; an affirmation of protest is also woven throughout the liturgy. My sermon was based around Exodus 17:1-7, looking at the wilderness wandering through a lens of generational trauma and applying it to the collective and individual traumas we are facing today, from those caused by pandemic and police violence to personal struggles.

For this affirmation, I also incorporated the NT reading Philippians 2:1-13, which talks about Christ’s self-emptying.

Watch or read my sermon here.

Categories
Confession and Pardon Liturgy

Confession and pardon: trauma, isolation, scarcity and individualism

God With Us, as one we confess our failings:

In times of trauma and hardship,
you call us to lean on one another and on you.
But we retreat into ourselves instead,
to wallow in our own troubles alone.  
We imagine ourselves to be burdens,
or accuse others of being dead weight. 

In a world whose resources we have poisoned,
a society divided into the haves and the have-nots,
your promise of abundance is just about impossible to believe.

And so we fall prey to myths of scarcity and individualism
that transform friends into enemies,
comrades into competitors.

When we deny our place in the network of your Creation,
when we reject the protests of those who thirst for justice,
when we fail to question authority,

Challenge us. Teach us. Restore us to your Way. 


ASSURANCE OF PARDON

Friends, our remorse is a sign of God’s grace already at work within us.
Assured of God’s mercy, we are liberated to seek new ways of being together. 


I wrote this for a virtual service centered around trauma and community’s role in the journey to recovery; an affirmation of protest is also woven throughout the liturgy. My sermon was based around Exodus 17:1-7, looking at the wilderness wandering through a lens of generational trauma and applying it to the collective and individual traumas we are facing today, from those caused by pandemic and police violence to personal struggles.

Watch or read my sermon here.

Categories
Call to worship Liturgy

Call to worship and opening prayer

Beloved community,

Though we remain separated by physical space,
the Spirit who transcends walls and borders gathers us together. 

We come as a community on a journey
Still learning how to show up for each other
And how to live into God’s Kin(g)dom.

We come with minds buzzing with questions,
or burdened by mental illness;
We come with spirits heavy with loneliness, grief, or dread;
We come with bodies weary with pain, sickness, or fatigue
To worship a God who hears, feels, and responds.


OPENING PRAYER

Oh you who are Holy Other and God With Us,

You choose to enter our daily lives,
to share our burdens with us.

You pervade space, time, and all the divisions we devise:
You who came to Moses and liberated an enslaved people,
You who came to them in fire and in darkness
to carry them through the wilderness
truly are the same God here in our midst today. 

We have come to worship you, strange and steadfast God
Who makes a way out of no way.


I wrote this for a virtual service on September 27, 2020 (21A Proper) centered around trauma and community’s role in the journey to recovery; an affirmation of protest is also woven throughout the liturgy. My sermon was based around Exodus 17:1-7, looking at the wilderness wandering through a lens of generational trauma and applying it to the collective and individual traumas we are facing today, from those caused by pandemic and police violence to personal struggles.

Watch or read my sermon here.