revised   06.07.30 --  Please reload/refresh....On the web since.1997.
 
 

click for information about these symbols of world religions and liberation movements


OUR WORK
OUR APPROACH
OUR TEAM
PUBLICATIONS
SPECIALS
RESPONSE FORM
KC STAR COLUMN
VERN'S BLOG
City Council Prayers
2007 February and March
2009 August
David Nelson and Vern Barnet

Why the Council members should say their own prayers (left column)

S e e    a l s o    G u i d e l i n e s    f o r    P u b l i c    P r a y e r

Vern's
Kansas City Star
column
2007 April 4

(#656)
 THE STAR'S HEADLINE: 
Electing the right prayer

Praying on another’s behalf is a sacred trust. Last month my duty as chaplain to the Kansas City City Council was to offer the invocation as each Thursday’s legislative session began. 

   I made many mistakes, and not just mispronouncing the name of a Council honoree. 

   While I noticed Councilman Eddy not at his place at one session, I did not know he was in the hospital until later and so failed to name him in the pastoral section of my prayer.

   My first prayer was addressed to “Spirit of Generations,” and a Council member asked afterwards where God was in the prayer. I think I remedied that by the second week, but I should have anticipated the concern.

   I am not certain that my plan was entirely successful for five distinctive prayers, each identifying a different theme, focusing one week on recent local achievements, another week on Kansas City’s world-wide relationships through our sister cities, and so forth.

   But the chief challenge came from the fact that the first session occurred right after the primary election, and the last session right after the general election. 

   How could I pray in a pastoral way that recognized individual joy and pain of winning and losing? How could I articulate the dynamic of the citizens as the results of the election were being assessed at that moment? How could I view the situation impartially while I have personal relationships with some involved in the contests? And do this briefly?

   I tried balanced and ambiguous phrasing. I tried reporting a common evaluation without my own judgment; I tried using a unifying tone of voice into the mic.

   Here is how that final prayer began:

   “O Spirit of Justice, you who work throughout history and community through fallible people, we gather acknowledging your sway in the aftermath of the city’s election.

   “It was often said there were two good mayoral candidates, 
to vote for one, not against the other. Yet it is also said the voting pattern, and the closeness of the vote, might suggest a division — which can be healed with the grace of the one who did not win, who has given the community so much for so long so well, with wisdom to be found and outreach to be manifested by the winner.”

   The complete prayer can be found at www.cres.org/city.

   Praying on behalf of the Council, with the members’ own attention to infinite detail embraced in a larger vision, humbled me with their gracious permission for me to try to find words blessing their work.


 
 

fstaff@cres.org



Vern's
Kansas City Star column
2009 Sept 16
(#783).
THE STAR’S HEADLINE: 
SEEKING JUSTICE ON COUNCIL 

Last month I served the Kansas City City Council as chaplain, to open the council’s legislative sessions with an invocation. 
    I had done this last in February, 2007. The mood in the chamber was very different then.  
    Last month saw the decision by a court finding flaws with a city ordinance governing volunteers in City Hall, the vote of the Council to rewrite the ordinance to correct the flaws and the mayor’s veto of the ordinance, regarded as aimed at his wife.  
    A suit arising from a complaint about the mayor’s wife had just been settled, costing the city over half a million dollars. And there were other contentious issues being debated. 
    Praying in such an atmosphere required especially serious preparation so as to avoid entangling my own opinions with my duty to find words that would neither avoid the situation nor enflame it. On one hand, prayer would be abstract and irrelevant unless the conflicts were recognized. On the other, taking sides or proposing solutions would be pastoral misprision; impartial inspiration was my task. 
    So in each prayer, I called attention to the meaning of the physical space, from the statues of Confucius inside and Lincoln outside to the setting overlooking Ilus Davis Park with its Bill of Rights monument. 
     Before the prayer on my last day, I spoke directly to the Council.  Based on my experience with several civic groups, I suggested the Council members themselves take turns praying. 
    When I joined the Overland Park Rotary Club decades ago, for example, the invocation was routinely assigned to clergy. I accepted the duty. But soon I discussed this with my clerical colleague. We developed a practice where everyone in the club, lay and ordained, could take turns.  
    It is a stretching experience to pray for folks right in front of you, and members learned about each other and themselves through the process.  
    Here’s what I said to the Council Aug. 27: 
    “Honorable Council Members, before today’s prayer, I’d like to thank you for the privilege of this month’s duty. 
    “I have sought language that might be accessible to people of all faiths — and those of none.  
    “As a citizen, I have strong opinions about the matters considered in this chamber; but as your chaplain, rather than advancing my personal agenda, I have tried the severe discipline of revivifying the words on the wall behind me (which conclude, ‘Let honor, truth and justice rule within these walls’). 
    “May I respectfully recommend this discipline to you, so that in the future, each of you, in turn, before the time of debate, take this place and try this way of praying on behalf of your colleagues. Thank you.” 
         The text of the prayers can be found at Council Prayers. 

 


   In 2007 March and April, CRES ministers David E Nelson and Vern Barnet were chaplains to the Kansas City, MO, City Council, which ended its term at the end of April. The text of the  invocations follow. For video, see video.  In 2009 August, Vern was asked to return. 
 

2007 February Invocations 
by the Rev David E Nelson, DMin, CRES associate minister

During the month of February,  I have been the chaplain for the Kansas City City Council. I  have been honored to share a connection between the political leadership of this city and the interfaith community that is a  vital part of this city. I have offered these words with the    intention of recognizing and celebrating the sacred in a rich variety of ways.
 

2007 February 1

Creator and Lover of the World and the Universe. We pause to remind ourselves that we live all of life in your sacred presence.
     Sacred Beacon of Justice, we place ourselves as a council under your overarching model of justice for all as we proceed in our business of providing leadership for this great city.
     Sacred Mountain of Peace, we look to your presence to enable us to promote a safe place for all people. May we lead this city in creating safety in our streets and in all our neighborhoods.
     Sacred Light House of Hospitality, we long for you to implant in our hearts and minds the ways of welcome. Assist us to make Kansas City the most welcoming community in the world for all people. May we set a high standard for the celebration of pluralism and find delight in the rich diversity of our neighbors.
     Fill this time with an awareness of your presence. Amen
 

2007 February 8

O Great One Who Creates, Transforms, and Unites, The citizens of this great city recognize, name and celebrate you in many ways.
     We share, however, a sense of awe in the wonders of creation: A brilliant sunrise, a mighty wind, a gentle rain, a soothing song of a bird, and the growing and declining of the moon.
     The citizens of this great city recognize, name and celebrate you in many ways.
     We share, however, a common desire for the healing of the human spirit: from the bonds of alcohol and drugs, from the depression of the mind, the fear from the unknown, and from the inner inklings that block our personal enlightenments.
     The citizens of this great city recognize, name and celebrate you in many ways.
     We are united, however, in a passion for justice and a stronger sense of community: The deep felt desire to live free from crime and senseless violence; The longing for connections between people from different backgrounds, a growing appreciation of the arts and sports that give opportunities for us to party together, an excitement of a downtown that feels like our common home.
     The citizens of this great city recognize, name and celebrate you in many ways.
     We are one in our support of leaders who with integrity and courage lead us into the future, taking the best of our past and building on it, creating a vision of our future that pulls us forward. Fill this hall with your wisdom and fill each person here with a sense of the sacred and the fully human.
     O Great One Who Creates, Transforms, and Unites; the citizens of this great city recognize, name and celebrate you in many ways. Be with us here and now and as we scatter from this place of business to live and to learn more of your wonders. Amen
 

2007 February 15

Between now and when you meet next week our Hindu sisters and brothers will celebrate Mahashivaratri, a festival dedicated to Shiva. The night before the feast, Hindus recite texts, sing and tell stories in honor of this God whose dynamic cosmic dance creates, preserves, destroys, and recreates the world. There is a wonderful statue of Shiva in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
     The 18th, next Sunday, is the first day after the new (dark) moon and is a religious and cultural festival celebrated by Chinese, Vietnamese and Koreans of Buddhist and other backgrounds as New Year’s Day for the year 4705, the Year of the Pig.
     Next Wednesday, February 21, is Ash Wednesday, the First Day of Lent, on the Western Christian calendar. This begins a forty-day period (excluding Sundays) of prayer, repentance and self-denial that precedes Easter.
     We have such a wonderfully diverse city.
     Let us pray:

As leaders of this great city, we rejoice in the gifts of religious and cultural pluralism. We ask that we might be open to the wisdom of all our sisters and brothers. We pray for a growing sensitivity to the issues of the environment. We seek to lead a city into more opportunities for personal growth and wholeness. We ask that our leadership model the commitment for nurturing a safer, and enlightened community. Amen
 

2007 February 22

Thanks on behalf of all people of faith. We have a wonderfully diverse city. That diversity of faith communities is one of the factors that make ours a great city. Your leadership is another of the factors that keep us on the right track. Let us pray:

God of worlds and planets, of peoples and creations, we pause in the business of our lives to recognize and reflect upon the power you have entrusted to us. May we have the wisdom to use that power and our influence to build up the whole human family and especially the citizens and guests of this great city. May Kansas City be recognized by those within and without as a city that:
* Values neighborhoods and neighborly people
* Cherishes education and wisdom
* Promotes justice and compassion
* Encourages business and rewards hard work
* Supports the arts and rewards our artists
* Celebrates together as a wonderfully diverse family
* Models politics that add value to the lives of all.
   Bless us during this time together and keep us on track to live the lives that are worthy of the sacred trust we have been given. Amen.


March Invocations 
by the Rev Vern Barnet, DMn, CRES minister emeritus

2007 March 1

Spirit of Generations,
under your variable skies,
here where rivers meet and join,
where fountains prepare to flow in this heartland of America:
we join together after a primary election,
grateful for those at these tables and elsewhere
who offered themselves for public service,
in a process called democracy by which leaders may be chosen,
issues may be debated, and decisions may be taken.

Spirit of Generations, 
called by various names in sundry faiths:
all citizens are here represented at these tables,
citizens of many beliefs and unbeliefs,
all precious insights like drops of rain
flowing into the river of life, 
a fountain of faith in our community,
from an ultimate source, returning to an ultimate mystery.

Spirit of Generations,
accept from all of us, citizens and Council members,
accept our mutual gratitude for the distinguished service those in this chamber have already provided,
and for community volunteers like Allan S Gray;
accept our best efforts to conduct ourselves and the business before us
with the integrity and vision that is revitalizing our city toward plenteous providence for all
as we offer each moment, like the joy of fountains flowing, 
to the service of one another and to you, 
O Spirit of Generations. Amen.
 

2007 March 8

Infinite mystery beyond the labels we give you —
God, Tao, Brahman, Allah, Adonai, kami, Sat Nam, Love — 
we rejoice in the festivals observed here this week,
Purim by our Jewish friends, Holi by our Hindu friends, Hola Mohallah by our Sikh friends, Kwan Yin day by our Buddhist friends, and the period our Christian friends call Lent, preparing for Easter,
all citizens thoughtfully and devotedly represented by those in this chamber,
as we particularly recognize the Rudnicks and the Rev J J Woods.

Undergirding abatements and traffic lights, neighborhoods and commissions,
studies and reports, budgets and dockets and agendas,
is the spirit of our people awakening 
through public and private cooperation, 
in the revitalized downtown, in the promise of the performing arts center, in the expansion of the Nelson, the Museum at Liberty Memorial,
in the countless ways the energies of all of us are acknowledged and advanced by decisions made in this chamber

And therefore we pray blessings on those who serve
as this session of deliberation convenes, 
and as the inscription on the majestic wall before us invokes,
let honor, truth, and justice rule.
Amen.
 

2007 March 15

Infinite Spirit,
We in this chamber give thanks to you,
for the blessings of this city
and for the skill and dedication of those laboring for the common good 
in government, business, education, life sciences and health, the arts and information, 
and in all the ways private citizens can join with elected leaders at these tables to continue the city’s remarkable advance 
with its growing national recognition in so many ways, 
from raingardens to our rich religious comity,
including the recent designation as the site for two national interfaith academies with a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation,
and the comity we model with our sister cities, 
Seville, Kurashiki, Morelia, Freetown, Tainan, Xi'an, and Guadalajara, Hannover, Port Harcourt, Arusha, San Nicolas de los Garza, Ramla, and Metz, 
as we recall in the midst of local decisions that we are part of global humanity seeking justice and peace and community.

Today we give thanks also for Charles Stonewall and his career,
For Charles Classen, High Mills, Lance Stabler, and Terrance Van Winkle for their quarter centuries of service with our Police Department, 
and for Carl DiCapo and his team working on the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial — Mayor Barnes, Mayor Berkley, Mayor Marinovitch, Ginny McCoy, Anita Gorman, Sandra Aust —–
Lord, I better stop naming all those on Carl's team or this prayer will go on too long —
Infinite Spirit,
known by so many different names by our own citizens of glorious diversity by and the peoples of the planet,
bless now this Council meeting as Council members deal with details and vision,
and may all those of good will join together in advancing the promise and the purposes of our people.
We offer this prayer in gratitude for awareness of the sacred in the midst of all our doings. Amen. 
 

2007 March 22

Eternal Spirit, called variously by the founders of this nation who sought to be respectful of every faith 
by using names for you including Providence, Supreme Giver, Great Author of every public and private good, Invisible Hand, benign Parent of the Human Race, Patron of Order, the Almighty, Creator, Supreme Judge, Infinite Power, and Fountain of Justice, 

we each have our own personal, limited ways of understanding and honoring you, 
who are beyond human measure,
yet we pause before you and with the citizens of this city also in mind
as work to be done awaits this chamber.

We give thanks for the city’s heritage of leadership 
and the present guides and decision-makers here assembled, 
and those serving in other ways, 
with pride for the achievements made, 
from the highest quality of water in our taps 
to the superb financial rating this city enjoys 
and the visible excitement in the very center of the city, 
and the increasing support available for the neighborhoods 
made possible by the city’s rejuvenation.

Eschewing barnyard images that demean your servants here, 
we pray for wisdom as remaining problems are addressed, 
to continue on the path of strengthening our civic and human infrastructure.
Eternal One, the great cities of the past and present have been formed by vision and spirit;
and for your grace toward us in providing us such remarkable leadership and teamwork, 
we give thanks . . . 

And pray that this hour and this legislative session 
may lead even further to blessings to the community, 
and blessing on those here serving the community 
with their hearts and minds joined in this chamber.
Amen.

2007 March 29

PROLOGUE.— Before the invocation, may I thank the Mayor and the Council for the opportunity to serve you as chaplain this month. I have appreciated the challenge of praying on your behalf and the citizens you serve with such attention to detail embraced in a larger vision.

INVOCATION

O Spirit of Justice, 
you who work throughout history and community through fallible people,
we gather acknowledging your sway in the aftermath of the city’s election.

O Spirit of Generations,
It was often said there were two good mayoral candidates, 
to vote for one, not against the other.
Yet it is also said the voting pattern, and the closeness of the vote, might suggest a division 
which can be healed with the grace of the one who did not win,
who has given the community so much for so long so well, and
with wisdom to be found and outreach to be manifested by the winner. 

And in other races as well affecting those in this chamber, 
winner and loser, we bring our personal emotions and hopes for the city
into a larger perspective of gratitude for this remarkable team of servants to the public,
especially as the term nears its end,
for the historic record of achievements and accomplishments
which will endure and shape the future of our town.

O Sacred Providence,
Especially we give thanks for Mayor Barnes’ leadership
and the work and devotion of the members of this Council,
not always fairly represented to others,
but whose benefits and direction will be enjoyed for decades to come.

O Ruler of Time and Eternity,
we rejoice in the opportunities of Public Health Week, in the life of Rebecca Jaramillo, 
and in the championship of Ruskin High.
May this Council session and the final month of this team’s work 
(as details and larger decisions are yet to be made,
and a transition to be managed)
somehow imbue the next team with this team’s vision of integrity
and this team’s commitment to plenteous providence for all.
And as the walls of this chamber come from a single tree,
and the emblems depict an agricultural and transportation past,
so may the future be fashioned with new and renewed arts of civilization;
and, as the inscription invokes, let honor truth and justice rule.
Amen.
 
 
 

2009 AUG 6

Creative Spirit, Grower of Generations, 
under your variable skies in this blessed city
where rivers meet and join, where fountains flow -- 
we ourselves join in public deliberations
where those gathered, elected and staff, pledge 
to work for the good of the citizens and for the future.

We recognize the enormity of besetting problems
and persistent and special issues: *Race for the Cure,
tif, taxes, trolley, lawsuits and settlements, sewers, 
preparations for the flu and land use possibilities,
management, budget, supervision,
frayed relationships and disappointed trust. Yet . . .

Yet this very chamber, impaneled largely from a single tree,
urges toward unity of purpose and the fruit of service.
So, O Sacred Providence, we come from you and to you, 
a single source,
as we are many branches and perspectives.
May all who come under your shade
discover that each branch is a part of the whole,
that we flourish anew with the waters of understanding
that flow like our rivers and fountains,
sustaining life and beauty 
in nature, in personhood, and in our community life.
Amen.
 

2009 AUG 13

Infinite mystery beyond the labels we give you — 
God, Allah, Adonai, Tao, Brahman, kami, Sat Nam, Love — 
We think of ourselves as individuals, 
sometimes as committees, sometimes as a Council,
Yet we are not separate from what has gone on before.
The discovery of fire, the development of writing,
the growing of crops and domestication of cattle —
we are part of the world’s story,
citizens of our own nation and state,
workers in our own city
and presences and doers in private life.

You are ultimate, but we are partial.

We depend on the very air in this room
and on the microbes which digest our food
and on the sun, the ultimate engine you have made for life.

And we depend upon markers of community
recalled on the friezes of this building’s exterior
And marks of civilization, such as the Nelson-Atkins,
Liberty Memorial, our parks and boulevard system,
barbecue, jazz, establishments of business, commerce, 
education, medicine, public works, charitable enterprises.

And although we in this chamber are not responsible for everything,
with what has been entrusted to us, a considerable care,
may we each model citizenship and leadership and comity
with enhanced  skills and an ever  deeper sense of public purpose

Thus we pause and recollect who we are as heirs of the ages.
And as stewards of what is to come,
we, with a mixture of pride and humility,
again dedicate this legislative session 
to support and enhance the life of this beloved city.
Amen.

2009 AUG 20 
No session.

2009 AUG 27

Honorable Council Members, Before the prayer, I'd like to thank you for the privilege of this month's duty. I have sought language that might be accessible to people of all faiths -- and those of none. As a citizen, I have strong opinions about the matters considered in this chamber, but as your chaplain, rather than advancing my personal agenda, I have tried the severe discipline of revivifying the words on the wall behind me (which read, "Let honor, truth and justice rule within these walls").
   May I respectfully recommend this discipline to you, so that in the future, each of you, in turn, before the time of debate, take this place and try this way of praying on behalf of your colleagues. Thank You.

Spirit of the Universe, Sacred Circle
whose center is everywhere, 
whose circumference is no where,
we are finite, on the  26th floor
of a human-made structure, 
a building for the people's business,
with inscriptions and emblems and statues
from the Chinese sage Confucius 
to the American statesman Abraham Lincoln,
the very design of City Hall reminding us 
of the dignity we seek,
and of civic groups such as the *Silver Haired City Council 
which express our vitality.

To the South of us, a county courthouse,
to the north a federal courthouse,
and just across the street is a park
with the glory of the Bill of Rights in relief
and a pool of water where, on the first anniversary of 9/11
folks of every faith in this city, A to Z--
American Indian to Zoroastrian,
poured water as tears from human suffering,
and also as cleansing and purifying anger
with the refreshment of shared service
for the ongoing human story here in the Heartland.

Sacred Circle, whose center is everywhere, 
 whose circumference is nowhere,
we are in your circle, on the 26th floor,
overseeing the city
and we pledge to be mindful to your embrace.
May this legislative session draw upon
the wisdom of the ages in the work of this house.
Amen.

=====================================
* Organizations to be recognized by the Council at that session according to the prepared Legislative Docket's Special Actions.
 

 


 


Copyright 2007 by Vern Barnet, Kansas City, MO