Thursday, May 24, 2012

Praying Through the War of 1812 Bicentennial

It may be making little impact outside our little part of Canada, but around here the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 is a big deal. The St. Lawrence River as the border between Canada and the United States saw cross-border skirmishes, and the crucial Battle of Crysler's Farm in 1813 that turned back a large American invasion force headed for Montreal. The American vanguard would have gone right past the site of our town on their way down the river bank to Cornwall and a fight with Canadian militia at Hoople's Creek.

Before becoming chair of Seaway Valley Presbytery last year, I tried to discern how to mark the Bicentennial as The United Church of Canada in this border region. As our denomination was formed through a merger of Methodists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists, I sought out our sisters and brothers across the river in New York State in denominations linked to our founders: United Methodists, Presbyterian Church (USA), and United Church of Christ. It was the United Church of Christ that leaped at the chance to honour our history and to witness to peace, and now we have a close relationship between our Presbytery and the UCC's Black River-St. Lawrence Association. We have attended each other's meetings and are preparing liturgy to be used in both denominations to mark significant anniversaries during the Bicentennial.

The first joint liturgy in our International Ecumenical Witness to Peace project commemorates the outbreak of the conflict on June 18, 1812, as the declaration of war on Great Britain passed by the US Congress was signed by President James Madison. I composed a prayer which will be used in worship by participating Seaway Valley Presbytery (United Church of Canada) and Black River-St. Lawrence Association (United Church of Christ) congregations on Sunday, June 17. I love the thought of people whose ancestors were divided by war praying the same words together at the same time. It has also been sent to United Church of Canada chaplains in the Canadian Forces.

God of peace,
We remember the violence, fear and pain that came to the St. Lawrence River Valley 200 years ago as war began between the United States and Great Britain, sending armies and navies into battle and neighbours against each other.
We thank you that Canada and the United States have been at peace since that war, and now enjoy friendship.
We pray that peace may continue to prevail between our countries.
We remember the impact of that war on the Native peoples of North America, and how the conflict led to the First Nations losing much of their territories. We pray for reconciliation with indigenous nations.
In your Spirit, help us to remember and honour all who died two centuries ago, as we work for peace in our homes, our communities, our church, and our world.
We pray in the name of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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