#TheologyinIsolation 2: 'A Liturgy During a Pandemic' by Porter C. Taylor
Today, as we reach the end of an anxious week, and we fear for what the future holds, liturgical theologian Porter C. Taylor offers us his 'Liturgy During a Pandemic'.
One of the beautiful things about liturgy is that it can be used to mark the highest highs and lowest lows of life. The joys of birth, baptism, marriage, and ordination are commemorated with individual rites; the sorrow of death has its own liturgy; we mark time by day, week, and year with various offices.
Liturgy helps us answer the question, How then shall we pray?
As we face this global pandemic of COVID-19, many of us find ourselves full of anxiety. Through social-distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine, how are we to pray? Through states of emergency and government lockdowns, how are we to pray? As our daily lives are turned upside down with school closings, job uncertainties, and economic instability, how are we to pray?
The answer is often, I don’t know. It is difficult to find concrete words to pray in circumstances for which most of us have no context. In an attempt to give us a common language of prayer during this time, I have written a liturgy specifically designed for use during this global pandemic.
In this liturgy, you will find a prayer of general confession devoted to fear, anxiety, and worry; included within the intercessions are prayers for those who are sick, for health workers, for churches, and for all of humanity; I have included the General Thanksgiving because all of prayer (and liturgy) is doxological; finally, I have included some prayers for specific times of the day. You can use this liturgy once or often throughout the day. It has been composed for both individual and family use. Lastly, I have written it in the hopes that it gives us a shared language with which we can approach Almighty God in prayer and supplication, praise and lament, sorrow and hope.
Liturgy for a Pandemic
This liturgy has been designed for use at home during this time of uncertainty and fear due to COVID-19. One person may read the portions in regular font and everyone responds together for italicized portions. It may also be read by one person. This is meant to be used at any time of the day, or multiple times a day, if so desired.
Our help is in the Name of the Lord;
The Maker of heaven and earth.
Most holy God, the source of all good desires, all right judgments, and all just works: Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, so that our minds may be fixed on the doing of your will, and that we, being delivered from all fear may live in peace and quietness; through the mercies of Christ Jesus our Savior. Amen .
O God, you will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are fixed on you; for in returning and rest we shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be our strength. Isaiah 26:3; 30:15
Heavenly Father, we confess to you our fears, our worries, and our anxieties. You have given us your perfect love which casts out all fear and your peace which transcends all understanding, but even still we feel dislodged, displaced, untethered, and uncertain during these times. We believe, Lord; help our unbelief.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
O God, make speed to save us.
O Lord, make haste to help us.
[The Comfortable Words in the midst of the Eucharist have been adapted here to be Comforting Words in times of crisis or sorrow.]
[Use one or more of these verses as a prayer.]
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. [Matthew 11:28-30]
May the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight; through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. [Hebrews 13:20-21]
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. For everything in heaven and on earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom, and you are exalted as head over all. [1 Chronicles 29:11]
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. [Isaiah 43:1 ]
For he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me? [Hebrew 13:5-6 ]
O Lord our God, accept the fervent prayers of your people as we cry out to you; in the multitude of your mercies, look with compassion upon us and all of your creation; for you are gracious, O lover of souls, giver of life, and to you we give glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen
Gracious God, the comfort of all who sorrow, the strength of all who suffer: Let the cry of those who grieve come to you, that they may find your mercy present with them in all their afflictions; and give us, we pray, the strength to serve them for the sake of him who suffered for us, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Let us also pray
For a swift end to COVID-19. For those infected and those who have been exposed; grant them strength, healing, and protection.
For their loved ones and caretakers; grant them peace, comfort, and endurance.
For those leading nations; grant them sound minds, courage, and humility.
For physicians, nurses, technicians, researchers, administrators, and all other healthcare employees around the world; grant them strength by your life-giving Spirit, wisdom, and resources to do the work before them
For those who must work, despite the threat of sickness; grant them protection and continued provision.
For those who have become unemployed or underemployed during this pandemic; grant them comfort, wisdom, and financial provision.
For churches and their clergy; grant them discernment and creativity to lead and minister in unprecedented circumstances.
For parents and families; grant them wisdom, patience and joy.
For children; grant them protection from fear.
For those for whom home is not a safe haven; grant them refuge.
For those who are alone; grant them a sense of your nearness and love.
For all navigating decisions during this time of uncertainty and fear; grant them your peace.
And for all the prayers we cannot voice because our language is insufficient or our ignorance too great; Lord, hear our prayer. Amen.
O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live; grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen
A Prayer to Close
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Almighty God, Father of mercies and giver of comfort: Deal graciously, we pray, with all who are scared, anxious, those who are mourning, or who are nervous; that, casting all their cares, worries, and anxieties upon you, they may know the overwhelming peace of your presence and the consolation of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen
Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, “Peace I give to you; my own peace I leave with you.” May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen
The Rev. Porter C. Taylor is a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen where he is writing his dissertation on liturgical theology. He is a priest in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh and serves at Church of the Apostles, Kansas City as Theologian in Residence.