A Prayer Vigil for Matthew 

Resources for A Community-Wide Anti-Violence Prayer Vigil Honoring the Life of Matthew Shephard. Working for Justice for All People.

NOTE: You are authorized to reproduce and redistribute these materials, and to use them in whole or in part, at no cost.

Call to Worship/Gathering

One: There are some who hurl taunts, threats and words of hate against us.

Many: But we will not be silenced.

One: They use fists, weapons and acts of violence to try to keep us down.

Many: But we will not go away.

One: They exclude us from civil rights protections and fail to enact laws to keep us safe.

Many: If we were silent, the very rocks and stones would cry out for justice.

One: We say, "No life should ever be sacrificed to intolerance. "

Many: We say no life should ever be silenced by injustice.

One: Each human life is precious.

Many: Each human path is sacred.

One: Creator of Us All, be with us now. Nurture within us an abiding respect for one another. Dwell within us in deep peace. Remove from our hearts all that leans towards violence and hatred and replace it with a passion for justice and peace. Where we are afraid, O God, strengthen us. Where we are hurt, heal us. May your voice cry out from the rocks and stones, from our hearts and minds, calling for justice, for peace and for unity. Amen.

Welcome

We are gathered here to honor the life and memory of Matthew Shepard and all those who who have died in hate-motivated acts of violence. We still live in a world in which differences are feared and where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people are all too regularly attacked and murdered for the simple fact of who we are.

We have gathered today to acknowledge our loss, our grief and our frustrations, and to gather strength, hope and courage from one another. May Matthew's life be an inspiration for us; may his death be a catalyst for change in our world.

Music

Invite a local GLBT chorus or the choir of a GLBT-friendly house of worship to provide an appropriate musical selection.

Readings

Ask readers of various faiths to bring a reading from their tradition that speaks to them on this occasion. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Quetzalcoatl

Offer only lovely things on my altars-- the bread of life, and jewels, and feathers, and flowers. Let the streams of life flow in peace. Turn from violence. Learn to think for a long time how to change this world, how to make it better to live in. All the people in the world ought to talk about it and speak well of it always. Then it will last forever, and the flowers will bloom forever, and I will come to you again.

The Buddha

The thought manifests as the word; The word manifests as the deed; The deed develops into habit; And habit hardens into character. so watch the thought and its ways with care, And let it spring from love Born of concern for all beings.

Jesus

And one of them, a lawyer, asked Jesus a question, to test him. "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?" And Jesus answered, "You shall love the Sovereign your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandment depend all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:35-40)

Hebrew Scriptures

Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream. (Amos 5:24)

Speakers

Invite members of the community, leaders in the church or of a local anti- violence project, and/or a member of PFLAG, to speak. You may wish to have several speakers, with music or readings between each speaker. It would be very appropriate to have a speaker eulogize Matthew, helping us to focus on his life, as well as the circumstances of his death.

Speakers may wish to focus on the status of hate-crimes legislation in your area, what community members can do, and how to be mobilized, not paralyzed, by the events of this past week.

Music:

"Something Inside So Strong" or use an alternative selection.

A Moment of Silence

Let us remember those who preach hatred and who fail to see that the violence of their words leads to violence in actions. We acknowledge that they, too, are wounded by their own fears and prejudices. For their sake, and for ours, we call upon them to cease their outpouring of rhetoric and instead to preach justice and love for all of God's children.

Pause for a moment of silence

Let us remember those in the legislatures and executive offices in our nation and our states who have allowed bills to languish or who have blocked the passage of laws designed to protect those who are victims of hate crimes. We acknowledge that they, too, are left vulnerable without these protections. For their sake, and for ours, we call upon them to act to protect the lives and civil rights of each citizen in their jurisdictions.

Pause for a moment of silence

Let us remember our own inactions, for times when we have not advocated on our own behalf for laws that would protect us and others and for times when we have not acted to stop injustice against another. We acknowledge that until all are safe, none of us are safe; until all are free, none of us are free. For their sake, and for ours, we call upon each other to renew our commitment to work for justice in our land and in our lives.

Pause for a moment of silence

Let us remember those who live with deep fear in their hearts, who live with hatred and who believe that violence is the answer to their problems. We acknowledge that when they act in hatred, their lives, too, are destroyed and their futures erased. For their sake, and for ours, we call upon them to be transformed, to let love rule where violence once flourished.

Pause for a moment of silence

Let us remember the families of those who commit hate crimes, who must live with the knowledge of violent acts committed by someone they love. We acknowledge that their lives, too, are devastated and their hopes dashed. For their sake, and for ours, we remember that pain goes in many directions from each act of violence.

Pause for a moment of silence

Let us remember all who have been harmed by violence, who have known the terror at the other end of a hate-filled word or an upraised fist. We acknowledge the strength of those who survived and the long road to healing. For their sake, and for ours, we commit ourselves to building each other up and to healing, together.

Pause for a moment of silence

Let us remember all who have lost their lives to hate-motivated violence, who have spent their final moments in fear and pain. We acknowledge the beauty and preciousness of their lives, and our loss that they are no longer among us. For their sake, and for ours, we commit ourselves to working to create a world in which differences are valued and lives are held sacred.

Pause for a moment of silence [you may want to read the names of those lost locally to hate-motivated violence and light candles for them at this time]

Let us remember the lovers and families and loved ones of those who have died in hate-related crimes. We especially remember the family of Matt Shepard. We acknowledge their pain and their deep grief. For their sake, and for ours, let us always remember that they, too, are part of our community and they, too, need our healing and our love.

Pause for a moment of silence

Let us remember Matthew Shepard and those he left behind. May all who were touched by him remember his life, as well as his death. May the beauty of his spirit and his love and care for his family live on in us. May his death spark us to fight for the living, to ensure that never again is a life like Matthew's cut short by hatred.

Pause for a moment of silence and light a candle in the center of the room/area

We light this candle in Matthew's memory, as a symbol of the light that he brought to this world. We share this light to signify that we hold his memory in our hearts and that we pledge ourselves to ending the violence that led to his death.

Music

During the music, you can have people light their candles from the central candle(s) that you just lit. Passing the light among the people is a powerful symbol.

Offering/Collection

The proceeds from the offering could be donated to the Matthew Shepard Memorial Fund or to a local organization working to prevent hate-crimes.

If you elect to receive an offering, you should clearly state the organization to which the funds will be donated and state that 100% of all donated funds will go directly to the designated organization.

In addition to collecting money, you may wish to collect petitions or postcards urging the passage of hate crimes legislation.

Music

Music played while the offering is being collected

Dedication of the Offering

Holy One, bless these gifts of your people to [name of organization or Matthew Shepard Memorial Fund]. We pray that through our prayers and our gifts that we will further the cause of peace. Work powerfully in our community, in our city and in our world, that the path of violence may fall into disrepair as the path of peace is traveled more and more. May we be builders of that road, with your help. We pray in your many names, Amen.

Memorial Prayer for Matthew

O God, our strength and our hope, with faith in your great love, we entrust Matthew to your eternal care. May your light eternal shine upon him. We thank you for all that Matthew was to those who loved him and for all the joy of his earthly life. We praise you that he is now in a place where pain, sorrow and hatred are no more. We ask for your help that we may create such a place here on earth. Be with us, O Source of Comfort, to heal all hearts made heavy with sorrow and fear. May Matthew's family, friends and loved ones know your presence around them, and may our prayers and the prayers of people throughout the world give them comfort and strength. One day we will all gather together as one family in that place where you reign forevermore. Thanks be to you, O God.

Dedication of the People

Leader: We will not be silenced by hatred and fear. We will not go away because of intolerance and injustice. Rather, we stand today, united, strong, courageous, to commit ourselves to creating a world that is filled not with violence, but with peace; not with hatred, but with love.

People: I will speak out for justice and for freedom, for my life and for the lives of others. I will call upon my government to equally protect each of its citizens. I will act when I see injustice around me. I will seek peace in my life and in all my actions. I will value my own journey and my uniqueness. I will value the journey and lives of those who are different from me. I will remember Matthew and all whom we have lost to violence. I will live my life with courage, with love and with hope, as a tribute to their lives.

Leader: Go into the world with courage, rememberinng that we stand strong, united, and together on this day. Seek peace in all you do, for in so doing, you will transform the world. Blessings to you. Amen.

Closing Music

"We Shall Overcome"


NOTES:

SPECIAL TO THANKS TO: The Rev. Justin Tanis, UFMCC Director of Clergy Development, for composing this liturgy for "Community-Wide Anti-Violence Prayer Vigils" to honor the life of 22-year old Matthew Shepard, whose life was ended by anti-gay hate-crimes in Laramie, Wyoming.