In response to Pope Francis’ appeal for prayer vigils for peace in Syria, Marie Cooke organised one of her beautiful ecumenical services which combine prayer, videos and music to such brilliant effect.
The service began with the video of the appeal of the Pope for prayers for Syria and continued with prayers composed by Caritas, Pax Christi, Pope St. John Paul and others, interspersed with video clips and photos of the devastation being wreaked in Syria and the suffering of its people. One of the photos I found most affecting and emotional was that of a man holding the dead body of a younger man in his lap. It immediately brought to mind Michelanglo’s Pieta.
I know I was not the only one present who had tears in my eyes at some of the footage. A gentleman in the congregation later said to me that he had had to turn away at points. The silence in the church was tanglible.
Those present lit candles for peace during the service, as the Hymn for the Year of Mercy played in the background and spontaneously everyone joined in singing the chorus quietly in a plea for mercy for all those affected by this civil war. Peter McGrail’s lovely Peace Song was also sung, with its plea to the Lord to “come and bring your peace”.
The service ended with a prayer of affirmation of justice and peace (from a creed from Indonesia) which finished with the words:-
“I do not believe that suffering needs to be in vain, that death is the end, that the disfigurement of the world is what God intended. But I dare to believe, always and in spite of everything, in God’s power to transform and transfigure, fulfilling the promise of a new heaven and a new earth where justice and peace will flourish”.
Then there was a final piece of music which might have seemed surprising but was so fitting to send us out feeling that we could achieve something – Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” and again we all spontaneously sang the chorus.