The Rev. Dr.
Michael Kinnamon, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
clergyman and a long-time educator and ecumenical leader, is the
ninth General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of
Christ in the USA.
The NCC is the ecumenical voice of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches. These 35 communions have 45 million faithful members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.
With hurricanes approaching,
New York, September 2, 2008 -- Now that Hurricane Gustav has spared New Orleans a direct hit, many Americans believe their prayers have been answered.
But praying for protection from hurricanes can be a tricky thing, the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA said today.
The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon cited the difficulty of the citizens of London when they prayed for protection from Luftwaffe bombs during the "Blitz" in World War II. "The consequences of asking God to protect your house were that your neighbor's house might be destroyed," he said.
Similarly, prayers for protection from major storms can't protect everyone in the storm's path.
"Days before Gustav approached the Gulf Coast, it landed full-strength on Cuba and did incalculable damage," Kinnamon said. "Moreover, this looks like a busy hurricane season. Even as Gustav weakens into a giant rain storm, Hurricanes Hanna and Ike are loose in the gulf, and Tropical Storm Josephine is gaining strength."
The only possible way to pray in such circumstances is "with humility and hope," Kinnamon said.
The full text of Kinnamon's statement, and his prayer for God's help, follows:
The hurricane season fills us with dread and sends us to our knees to ask God's protection.
This is an appropriate and necessary reaction, but it's difficult to know what we want God to do for us. During the "blitz" of the Second World War, citizens of London often remarked about the difficulty of praying for God's protection. The consequences of asking God to protect your house were that your neighbor's house might be destroyed.
So it was with Hurricane Gustav, which at one point was a category 4 storm projected toward New Orleans. As media descended on New Orleans, millions of us prayed that the city be spared a direct hit. By Tuesday morning, September 2, it appeared that the worst had been avoided and media resumed their focus on the U.S. presidential campaign.
But had our prayers been answered? Days before Gustav approached the Gulf Coast, it landed full-strength on Cuba and did incalculable damage. Moreover, this looks like a busy hurricane season. Even as Gustav weakens into a giant rain storm, Hurricanes Hanna and Ike are loose in the gulf, and Tropical Storm Josephine is gaining strength.
How do we word our prayers now?
The only way possible: with humility and hope.
Dear God, we confess that we are frightened by our helplessness in the face of natural disasters like hurricanes and human disasters like war.
We pray, dear God, for our safety and the safety of our loved ones.
We pray, dear God, for the safety of all who stand in harms way.
But if there is no escape from the tumult, we pray that we will never forget that you are standing in the midst of it with us, that you will never desert us, that you will offer us unlimited comfort and strength to face what must be faced, and do what must be done.
We pray, dear God, to remember that in times of storm or calm, in war or in peace, we are all neighbors dependant on one another for our survival.
And before the next storm comes, dear God, remind us to ask the questions that are ever on your heart:
Are the storms that come a product of our sinful disregard for your world that has led to global warming, undrinkable water and unbreathable air?
Have we failed to see that some of our neighbors are more vulnerable to the storm because of age, disability or economic restraints?
And when the storm passes, do we lose sight of what we must do to protect one another and be better neighbors to one another.
When the storm approaches, dear God, let our first thoughts be of our neighbors who face the same fate.
And whatever happens
in the storm, dear God,
In Jesus name we pray,
National Council of Churches
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