Liturgy and Life in Baltimore

After a week of tensions over a young man inexcusably brutalized while in police custody and then dying from his injuries; after hearing horns honking for several hours on Sunday as cars drove past the funeral home a block from my house where Freddie Gray’s wake was held; after spending much of last night watching video of my city burning, her businesses looted, her citizens locked in conflict with each other, while police helicopters flew over our house and sirens sounded in the distance; after hearing pleas from Freddie Gray’s family for peace and calm and seeing televised images of several hundred African American clergy joining arms and walking through the center of the conflict to help clear the streets in an unexpected liturgy of reconciliation, a grace-filled moment of courage and peace erupting in the midst of violence and chaos; I woke today to pray Morning Prayer, which in God’s providence gave me words to speak the heartbreak and hope I feel for my city:

The spotless Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world. Let us give thanks to the Father, and say:
Source of all life, raise us to life.

Source of all life, remember the death and resurrection of the Lamb slain on the cross, listen to his voice as he lives for ever, making intercession for us.
Source of all life, raise us to life.

Now that the old leaven of wickedness and evil is destroyed, may we always feed on the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Source of all life, raise us to life.

Grant that today we may put aside all friction and jealousy, and show greater concern for the needs of others.
Source of all life, raise us to life.

Send into our hearts the spirit of the Gospel, that we may walk in the way of your commandments, today and for ever.
Source of all life, raise us to life.


  1. Fritz, as a native of Baltimore, and as someone whose parents grew up in the neighborhood that has erupted in flames and violence, I share your prayer and that provided by the Church on this sad morning.

  2. As someone who lived in Annapolis for seven years, I know Baltimore well. I affirm your prayer with “Lord, have mercy,” and “Amen.”

  3. Perhaps I missed it. Were there any statements from the Archdiocese of Baltimore concerning the death of Freddie Grey? As a church that emphasizes the sacredness of life and the dignity of the person, I thought an official comment would be appropriate. Among the clergy who sought to calm the city last night, was there a Catholic presence?
    Will we hear plans of prayer services or other ecumenical liturgies to pray for the city, for the hurt police officers, for the people who live in poverty and fear?
    I know that Catholic Charities of Baltimore does a magnificent job of helping the marginalized. Will there be special collections and prayer requests to help that organization assist those whose lives were disrupted by the riots?
    Does anyone have any suggestions about how we as church respond to a crisis like this?
    May God bless Baltimore and have mercy on us all.

    1. @Ed Stoops – comment #4:
      Does anyone have any suggestions about how we as church respond to a crisis like this?

      The first parish I served after my ordination was Zion Lutheran Church of Ferguson, Missouri. Zion sits about a block away from the Ferguson Police Department headquarters. At the time, I lived a few blocks away from where Michael Brown was killed last August.

      I was speaking with the current pastor of Zion last fall, and he noted that Zion itself remained free from the bricks being thrown and other vandalism that erupted. He attributed this to the fact that Zion has a long history of engagement in the community, well before Michael Brown was shot.

      How can “we as a church” respond to a crisis like this? Get engaged in your community, wherever that may be, so that if/when tensions arise where you are, you and your parish have the trust of the community when the community’s trust in the police and other civic structures is shaken if not broken completely.

      And if you are in Baltimore, think about that word “trust.” If you see places where it can be rebuilt, that’s how you respond. No words of peace will be heard if there is no trust between the speaker and the hearer.

  4. Archbishop Lori Calls for Prayers for Gray Family, Peaceful Community Response as Investigations Into Death of Freddie Gray
    April 27, 2015

    Archbishop William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore, today issued the following statement in response to this weekend’s protests and the tragic death of Freddie Gray:

    Today, many in our City are trying to come to grips with the aftermath of an emotional and sometimes-violent weekend that threatens to overshadow two realities that cannot and should not be lost: a family’s devastating loss of a young man whose body will be laid to rest today, and a grieving community’s peaceful quest for answers and justice.

    Our hearts cannot help but go out to the loved ones of Freddie Gray, whose pain and anguish we will share as they say their final farewells to a son, brother, nephew, and cousin. Freddie was not merely a symbol, but a real person whose life was tragically cut short. Sadly, it is a pain that far too many other Baltimore families have had to endure and will have to endure, so long as senseless violence and hatred continue.

    But Freddie’s death is especially tragic because of the circumstances that led to it, and the pain of his loved ones is all the more acute because of what his death represents not only for them, but for so many others in our community who may not have known Freddie. For Freddie’s death symbolizes the rawest of open wounds and the only salve that will heal them is that of truth: truth about what happened to Freddie, truth about the sin of racism that is still present in our community, and truth about our collective responsibility to deal with those issues that undermine the human dignity of every citizen.

    As we await the truth, today I ask the faithful of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and all people of good will to join me in praying for the Gray family and for all families devastated by the untimely death of a child of God. Let us pray together for the people of our community, for those in law enforcement who approach their job with dignity and honesty and goodness, and for those investigating Freddie’s death, that their investigations will be swift, thorough, open, and honest, and that it will help our community to find ways to address systemic issues. May we unite in prayer for immediate and lasting healing, especially between members of our community and law enforcement, brought about by dialogue, mutual respect and understanding. We pray that following today’s funeral and in the days to come, protesters will voice their views freely and openly but without violence, which only deepens and prolongs injustice. And finally, may we pray together that God will grace us always with His presence, so that our broken City can once again be whole and that our minds and our hearts will be open to peace and love.

  5. Although I have only visited Baltimore, I share your concern for the city, her people, and our nation. The Collect for the Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice gives me these words when I am speechless: “O God, who have revealed the peacemakers are to be called your children, grant, we pray, that we may work without ceasing to establish that justice which alone ensures true and lasting peace. Through our Lord Jesus Christ….”

  6. I certainly join with others in praying for a peaceful and just outcome for the family and for the citizens of Baltimore. I am unable, however, to overlook the fact that the injustice that victimized Freddy Grey has been overshadowed by that done by the thugs who have looted, burned, destroyed property, and threatened the public safety of so many people. Justifiable anger may indeed lead to rising passions, but nothing justifies thuggery. These individuals and groups have besmirched the memory of Mr. Grey and all who are mourning his tragic death. I can only pray that they may be led to conversion and receive the mercy of God.

  7. Human beings are made in the image and likeness of the Divine – declare Holy Scriptures.

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