The following resources for worship and individual meditation on the one-year anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls were prepared by Joshua Brockway, director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship for the Church of the Brethren:
Service of Lament for the Chibok Girls
A Liturgy for Private Prayer
Lord Jesus, whose resurrection we have celebrated, we stand once again in the shadow of death. While we trust in your life everlasting, we cannot but mourn the loss of your children by the violent hands of others. Wipe our tears with your compassionate love, a love that both suffered and yet lives, so that we may be a people who hope in you.
Light a small candle as a sign of this time of prayer.
Read aloud Isaiah 25:1-8:
O Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you, I will praise your name;
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
For you have made the city a heap,
the fortified city a ruin;
the palace of aliens is a city no more,
it will never be rebuilt.
Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
For you have been a refuge to the poor,
a refuge to the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.
When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,
the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place,
you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;
the song of the ruthless was stilled.
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
Spend time in silent reflection and prayer.
Closing prayer, adapted from “For All Who Minister,” 432:
O God, you are present here and with our sisters and brothers in Nigeria, and sit beside each one who mourns.
When a hand touches another,
or arms meet arms,
or eyes look deeply into other eyes,
or words are spoken,
you are both here and there–
in a handshake,
You are with us, even if we are not sure,
for nothing can separate us from you and your love.
It is a time of questions, a time of tears.
Help us to feel your presence.
Accept our thoughts and feelings, no matter what they are.
Help us to accept our thoughts and feelings no matter what they are.
Grant us the peace
that knows there is hope on the other side of crying and separation.
Give us your love
as we hold up these young ones to you (or insert the name of one of the kidnapped girls).
Bless their families (her family) and give to them strength and peace.
Extinguish the candle.
Words of assurance from Romans 8:38:
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen.
Service of Lament for the Chibok Girls
A Time for Worship Together as People of Faith
Notes about preparation for this service: Gather a number of small stones to be arranged on a worship center, surrounding a single candle. You will need to have enough stones to share one with each person present.
Words for gathering hearts and minds:
Sisters and brothers, we come together without knowing how to pray in the face of such violence and uncertainty, but we are reminded that the “Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). So, then, let us pray together.
Hymn of prayer: “Stay with Me,” 242 in “Hymnal: A Worship Book”
A reading from the Gospel: John 11:17-38a
“When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’ When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’ Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’”
We know the story of Lazarus well, for it is a story that foreshadows the very death and resurrection of Jesus. John, in his masterful way, weaves together a story of great grief and hope, bringing the reader along with Jesus to the tomb. Just a few verses before our reading, the disciples warned Jesus that many were waiting for him, ready to stone him. And when Jesus comes to the tomb, his first words were to command that the stone be rolled away. In just a few sentences, John symbolizes both life and death with these stones–ones meant to kill and one meant to reveal new life.
Yet we are like Mary, running to Jesus and collapsing in our grief. We come, asking why such things could happen. Asking how God could lets such precious ones be lost.
So we are stuck in this middle place between loss and hope.
In this past year, we have prayed for the girls of Chibok. If we are part of a congregation that received the name of a girl to pray for, we have especially poured out prayers for that one girl by name. We have written letters. We have searched the news from Nigeria for any sign of hope. And we have waited, longing for their return. Now, with the Chibok girls’ families, we are hoping for word that violence has not taken them once again.
As we sing the simple refrain of “Dona Nobis Pacem,” “Give Us Peace,” come forward to take a stone from the worship center as a sign of our continuing hope in resurrection. With this stone, remember that one day, all stones will be rolled away and we all will be restored to life everlasting.
Song of prayer: “Dona Nobis Pacem,” 294 in “Hymnal: A Worship Book”
Each person may come forward to prayerfully take a stone from the worship center. Repeat the song until all have been seated.
Pastoral prayer, 414-415 in “For All Who Minister”:
Lord Jesus, you grieved when you heard of the death of your good friend, Lazarus. We find strength in your promise that you will not leave your people comfortless, but will come to them. Comfort those who grieve. Reveal yourself to those who, this day, feel the burden of their loss. Cause them to hear in new ways the truth of your promise that we are not to be troubled, for you have a place for each of us and will call us to be with you. Help all of us to find true strength in you–those who have a short distance yet to go in life’s journey and those who may have a long time to experience the fullness of life. Give us grace to turn to you in full discernment, that the strength we have in you may bless our pilgrim days and be a blessing to others around us.
O Lord, you are willing to receive and answer simple prayers. Be especially with the Chibok girls’ families and the family of (Chibok girl’s name). Give them an unusual measure of comfort and inner peace. Send good memories to temper their loneliness. And gird us all with the support of the church as an earthly manifestation of your divine love and care. Amen.
Closing blessing, 433 in “For All Who Minister”:
May the love of God be above you to overshadow you,
beneath you to uphold you,
before you to guide you,
behind you to protect you,
close beside you and within you to make you able for all things, and to reward both your faith and your faithfulness with a joy and a peace that the world cannot give, neither can it take away.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory in your lives now and forever. Amen.
— “For All Who Minister” is a minister’s manual published by Brethren Press. “Hymnal: A Worship Book” is a hymnal published jointly by Brethren Press and MennoMedia. For more information about these resources go to www.BrethrenPress.com .