A call to fasting and prayer on Saturday, September 7th
Greetings to you, sisters and brothers,
in the name of our Lord Jesus,
the one we know as the Prince of Peace.
On Sunday, Roman Catholic Pope Francis spoke strong words of condemnation for the use of chemical weapons in Syria, expressing clearly his personal sorrow and the inevitable judgment of both God and history upon such actions. Francis also shared words of caution for those who would seek to use violence to achieve peace saying:
“War brings on war! Violence brings on violence!”
It is too easy to feel powerless in the face of such terrible events that are half the world away. That is why I was moved by Francis’ invitation to his flock to a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria. And in a promising spirit of ecumenism, he extended this invitation to all people “of good will.” I am writing to encourage you to consider how we might accept this invitation.
Our United Methodist Social Principles clearly express our distain for war and violence, recognizing how they “frustrate God’s loving purposes for humankind.” As Christians we are called to be peacemakers, even as we sometimes hold within our body very different understandings on how that peace might be achieved. But nothing in our disagreements should keep us from being united in our prayers for peace in Syria and around the world.
It is up to our government,and other foreign governments, to decide whether to intervene to stop these acts of violence by the Syrian leadership. This will most likely involve military intervention. Although we have the power of the prophetic voice, our main mission as a church is to seek peace, not war or violence. Our most important response at this time is to pray and ask for peace.
So let me encourage you to heed Pope Francis’ invitation to spend Saturday, September 7th in fasting and to pray for peace in Syria. For some, this may be most practically done in private or with your loved ones. For others, you may wish to invite your community to pray and fast together in some manner – leaving your sanctuary open or hosting an evening vigil. Wherever there is an opportunity, I would challenge you to reach out to other faith communities to join together in that most generous spirit of interfaith ecumenism. What a blessing it would be for our sanctuaries to be used by our communities for prayers such as these!
Despite its long history in our Christian tradition, I expect that fasting may be something relatively unfamiliar to some and beyond the ability of others for any numbers of health reasons. Please participate as you can, knowing that God understands and does not expect us to endanger our health.
I have asked our staff to gather a few resources to support your efforts of prayer and fasting for Syria. These should be available for you sometime on Wednesday. Please take advantage of these if they are useful but don’t let us stop you from seeking out and sharing your own practices as well.*
Grace and peace,
Bishop Grant Hagiya
Check back as we continue to add to this list of resources.
The following templates are provided to help your church to spread the word in your community.
The following graphics are provided to encourage personal and/or corporate participation in fasting and prayer for peace on Saturday, September 7th. Image provided by Paul Jeffrey.
For Peace in Syria (Facebook Cover Photo for Pages – .JPG) (Profile Version – JPG.)
For Peace in Syria (Print – .JPG)
For Peace in Syria (Web Resolution – .JPG)
UMCOR: Flyer: Be Hope for War-Impacted Syrians
United Methodist Book of Worship – 428, Peace w/ Justice Prayer
United Methodist Book of Worship – 515, 517, For the Nation
United Methodist Book of Worship – 520, 521 For Peace
GBGM | Annual Day of Prayer for Peace
Vigil for Healing and Peace in the Spirit of Taize
Resources on Fasting
An Embarrassment of Riches, a short intro to Fasting
Fasting as a Spiritual Discipline – methodist.org.uk PDF
What is Fasting? – SA Fact Sheet
A John Wesley Sermon on Fasting
Lent: A Time to Fast and Pray – UM Interpreter
What does The United Methodist Church say about fasting? – umc.org
Regional Media Center Resource | Celebration of Discipline | Mudhouse Sabbath
A variety of articles and statements from religious leaders/groups on Syria.
NCR: Syrian Christians say Western attack could make things worse
UMNS: Church groups assist as Syrian refugees grow
CWS: Ahead of Expanded Military Action in Syria, Cairo Prepares for More Refugees
Letter: Military strikes not the answer in Syria (GBCS among others)
Jim Wallis: On Syria, We Must Use a Moral Compass to Guide Our Moral Outrage
Religion News Service: On Syrian conflict, three Christian Perspectives
National Council of Churches deplores Syrian chemical attack…
Pope Francis Renews His Appeal for fasting (Wed. Sept 4 – with audio)
A couple ways to Respond
* Do you have a great resource or idea to share? Please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
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