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Resources for Memorial Day 2004

At 6 p.m. May 27, the Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend, the National Council of Churches USA will host an interfaith worship service at National City Christian Church, on Thomas Circle in Washington, D.C., to mourn the growing number of fallen sons and daughters of our nation, struck down in Iraq while in the patriotic service of their country. We also will pray for the families of the thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians caught in the crossfire, along with all the other soldiers, reporters and non-military personnel who have lost lives and limbs in this conflict.  All are precious in the eyes of a loving God.

The NCC is encouraging people of faith across the United States to organize similar interfaith worship services in their own communities, and offers the following resources.  Please let Bob Edgar -- redgar@ncccusa.org -- know if you are planning a service.  Click here for a partial -- and growing! -- list of services.

Here are the links for the resources.  Immediately below are suggestions we hope you will find helpful in planning your service.

Planning Suggestions

1. Try to include interfaith partners in the planning meetings. Most interfaith services (including the ones we do) are built on a worship style with which Christians are most familiar. Sometimes interfaith partners feel that their presence is just an add-on to a Christian service. The way to craft a service that is more inclusive is to include our interfaith partners in the planning from the outset.

2. We are using the theme and material from the WCC’s Decade to Overcome Violence. The theme is “Power and Promise of Peace.” You may check WCC DOV materials at www.overcomingviolence.org

3. “Every Life is Precious” is an important sub-theme. At the Washington DC service we will have 700+ bouquets of flowers representing US military persons who have died in the Iraq war. We will also have more bouquets representing other soldiers and a whole swath of flowers representing children, moms, dads, brothers and sisters of Iraq who have died. We will try to get as accurate a listing as possible of the US military persons who have died and run their names on a screen via a Powerpoint program. You can find a full list at: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/Primetime/IRAQ_Casualties.html?CMP=IL23417

We encourage you to identify and honor the fallen soldiers from your state or local region, particularly but not exclusively. If you can use flowers (a bouquets per soldier from your region or even a single rose would be good), please make sure that there are more flowers that will represent the loss of other (including Iraqi) lives.

4. We will use several periods of silence and guided meditations during the service. We will use speakers minimally. Depending on the size of your congregation, you may encourage people to share their reflections (This requires a strong leader - and is not a good idea if the congregation is large.) The following is the basic pattern for the body of the service.

a. Laying our grief before God

Readings from Sacred Texts
Silence
Guided Meditation
Choral Response

b. Receiving God’s comfort

Readings from Sacred Texts
Silence
Guided Meditation
Choral Response

c. Moving on to become peacemakers.

Readings from Sacred Texts
Silence
Guided Meditation
Choral Response

At the end of the Washington DC service the congregation will take the flowers and go outside to create a makeshift memorial on the sidewalk. We encourage you to do something similar. (Police or Park District permission may be needed.)

These are preliminary guidelines to help you begin planning. We will appreciate receiving your creative ideas and feedback.

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