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Lament for a Broken Community

I was struck again with the importance of the Psalms, for every stage of grief can find expressions in this book. . . . I know that at some point in the future the Psalms will also give voice to our acceptance and hope. As a community, that day seems a long way off, but the Psalms are here for us now as we journey through our grief.

My school will never be the same.

I teach at a Christian elementary school in Iowa, in a small, tight-knit community where we don’t lock our doors and when the closest thing that comes to traffic slowdown happens at 9:30 Sunday morning. Yet a few weeks ago we were shocked to learn that a well-loved teacher in my school had been arrested due to inappropriate contact with a student. That was just the tip of the iceberg. As time goes on we are now coming face to face with the realization that the situation is larger than we can put our minds around, and with additional charges expected, we know that new information will continue to open wounds again and again.

In the midst of overwhelming emotions and questions our community held a service of lament. Lament for innocence lost, for trust that was misplaced in a person who deceived and groomed victims, and for an abusive situation that was allowed to survive undetected for over a decade. Counselors working with our staff have reminded us of the stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. As I reflected I was struck again with the importance of the Psalms, for every stage of grief can find expressions in this book. The Psalms point us to God’s faithfulness, yet more than that, the Psalms give us space to express our anger without easy answers, share our denial and depression, and even allow us to bargain using “what if’s” and “if only. . . .” I know that at some point in the future the Psalms will also give voice to our acceptance and hope. As a community, that day seems a long way off, but the Psalms are here for us now as we journey through our grief.

Joyce Borger, editor of Reformed Worship, wrote the following prayer of lament with our school in mind, and we have it posted in our teacher’s lounge. At some point we have hope that our mourning will turn to dancing, but until that time comes, this prayer of lament has been a way for us as a staff to give words for our anger, our hurt, and our deep sorrow over the brokenness of this world.

God of love, protector of children, 
our hearts are broken and turn to you with this charge: 
these are your children, where were you? 
Why did you turn your face away from them? 
Why Lord? 
Why did this go on for so long? 
Why didn't anyone notice? Say something? 
Why did you let this happen? 
What have these innocent children done to deserve this? 

God of love, protector of children.
We have a charge to bring against you. 
We bring it to you because somehow we know that we need you. 
We bring our anger and our anguished cries to you
because you are a father and know what it means to see your child suffer, 
because we know you welcome our honest laments
because we know you. 

Journey with us now through the anger, grief, shock . . .
Journey with us as some may wrestle with misplaced guilt or blame,
Journey with us as we struggle to find the strength to go on
Journey with us as we journey together as a community
Journey with us through the darkness. 

And as we journey hold us tight 
because right now not all of us have the strength to hold on to you. 
Amen.

Additional resources from Reformed Worship