The United Church of Christ will celebrate Women's Week this year during the first week of March, March 5-11, 2017. This coincides with other denominational and secular observances of Women's Week including International Women's Day on March 8.
Lorica—Prayer of Protection-- from the Celtic Tradition
[With thanks for inspiration to the Rev. Dr. Heather Murray Elkins, Frederick Watson Hannen Professor of Worship, Preaching and the Arts at Drew Theological School, and the members of the Feminist Liturgy Seminar at the North American Academy of Liturgy]
Public witness is being called for these days in many different settings. How may we go forth spiritually prepared to confront contentious situations? The Celtic Church offers some models in their tradition of “Lorica.”
“Lorica” is a Latin word meaning “body armor”; literally a protective garment. Celtic Christianity developed a prayer genre of loricae, calling on the Trinity and all of Creation to protect body and soul from harm. The scriptural inspiration for a lorica is Ephesians 6:14, where Paul exhorts the community to “put on the breast-plate of righteousness."
A lorica may have the feel of a chant or litany, with repetition establishing a steadying, heartening rhythm. A lorica may be prayed by an individual, or a community may pray it in a call-and-response format. A lorica may be used to center oneself for action; it may be used as an energetic “warm up” prayer for community action. It is a flexible form, and can draw on all kinds of sources for inspiration.
Out into the World: Service Prayers for Women’s Week
In the current political climate in the United States many women (and men) are feeling a new or renewed call to prophetic action for the Gospel. This service is intended to foster the spirit of the Midwife God who calls us into an ever-widening life of love and action. This service may be accompanied by a “Lorica” -- A “breastplate prayer” of protection from the Celtic tradition.
Call to Worship (Psalm 71: 6)
God, our Midwife,
From the darkness of the womb, its safety and nurture
Guide us into a world of light and risk!
From childhood’s simplicity and care-full boundaries
Guide us into a world of breadth and mystery!
From places too comfortable with too-narrow vision
Guide us into the Prophets’ path of justice-making love.
Let us praise the One who calls us, ready or not, into a future of grace!
Invocation (Psalm 71: 6)
on you we have leaned since our birth,
since you first drew us forth from our mothers’ wombs.
All our lives you are with us,
calling us forth into fields of
ever more light, insight and possibility.
Meet us here today and hold us in your life-giving hands;
be for us our rock, our hope, our trust, our challenge.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Confession (Jeremiah 1: 4-10)
A prophet’s call follows a certain pattern in our Scriptures:
God calls, and the prophet makes excuses or even runs the other way;
God persists, promising presence and strength,
and the prophet finally turns toward God and the new challenge.
Our calls to do God’s work in the world may not be as dramatic as Jeremiah’s call,
but our excuses may be just as heartfelt:
Too young! Too bewildered!
Too scared! Too old!
Too many to count!!!
Take a moment and consider the persistent call of God
in your life, or in our community’s life, right now.
What is stopping you from responding?
Assurance of Pardon (1 Corinthians 13)
The God who calls us into new challenges
remains a faithful guide as we grow into them.
Let’s remember the words of Paul on growth in grace:
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child;
when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror, dimly,
but then we will see face to face.
Now I know only in part;
then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three;
and the greatest of these is love.”
Confident in God’s love made known to us in Christ Jesus,
know that you are forgiven and set free
to grow in grace and follow God’s call.
Invitation to Offering (Luke 4: 21-30)
Jesus disappointed his hometown:
he offered them not the miracles and wonders they demanded,
but instead a prophetic word of challenge:
to look with him beyond their community boundaries
into the wider world where God called them to the work of justice.
Jesus’ neighbors ran him out of town!
We now are Jesus’ neighbors, friends, disciples—
and he offers the same challenge to us:
can we open our ears to hear his call
to the works of justice and love in the wider world?
Let us gather our gifts together
and offer them to God in gratitude, heartfelt commitment, and praise.
Blessing Over the Gifts
Christ, Emmanuel, God-with-us,
may you find us faithful and courageous friends,
Always ready to open our lives to your call.
Bless these gifts we have gathered,
multiply them so that they may be a blessing in the world you love.
The Holy One, as always, sends us out into a complicated, risky world.
Let us go forth with the blessing of our Midwife God,
drawing us always into more light, new life, and enough courage
to take up Jesus’ work of love and justice in our world.
- Justice for Women
- Women Change the World
- Common Lot - A magazine for the women of the United Church of Christ
* Midwife to Prophets: Service Prayers Women’s Week, 2017 was written by the Rev. Susan A. Blain, Minister for Faith Formation: Curator for Worship and Liturgical Arts, Local Church Ministries.