Free Us to Be a Blessing

A Community Prayer following the United Church of Christ's filing of a federal legal challenge to North Carolina's marriage laws, based on the free exercise of religion

Suggested use date:  Sunday, May 4, 2014

Call to Prayer

Earlier this week, the United Church of Christ became the first religious body to challenge in federal court the constitutionality of a state's restrictive marriage laws based on the First Amendment.  On Monday [April 28], the UCC filed a lawsuit in North Carolina, where state law makes it a criminal offense, imposes fines and even possible jail time, if a clergyperson performs a marriage ceremony for anyone, regardless of gender, if the couple does not have a North Carolina marriage license.

As a people who trace our history, in part, back to the Pilgrims who came to this land in order to more freely exercise their religious beliefs, the United Church of Christ has initiated this legal action to preserve and protect the rights of religious leaders and communities of faith, regardless of our individual perspectives on marriage, to be able to conduct worship services and offer pastoral care without government interference.

Therefore, this day, we join in prayer for the whole United Church of Christ as we embark on this courageous witness for justice, equality, and freedom, especially the free exercise of our faith, saying after each petition, "God of the Resurrection, free us to be a blessing."  Let us pray:


O God, our God, as the Risen Christ made himself known to the disciples while on the road to Emmaus, accompany us, the United Church of Christ, as we embark on yet another journey toward more truth and more light.  Open our eyes and make our hearts burn within us, as we preach your inclusive gospel and bear witness to the power of your extravagant love in the world.

God of the resurrection, free us to be a blessing.

For our leaders, pastors, and churches, be made known to all, O God, as we offer a resounding ‘yes' to your sovereignty this Easter season and withstand any attempts to limit your love or restrict the table of grace that Jesus Christ, in victory, sets before us.

God of the Resurrection, free us to be a blessing.

For the people of our churches nationwide, who hold a variety of views on marriage but share a common commitment to the unity of the church, bless the center that holds us – the love of Jesus Christ – that we might be of one heart, even when not of one mind.

God of the Resurrection, free us to be a blessing.

For our forebears in faith, who lived and preached boldly in the defense of religious liberty, especially those persecuted and killed for their convictions, we invoke their memory and abiding presence as we act to protect the First Amendment of our U.S. Constitution and the freedom and dignity of our faith in you.

God of the Resurrection, free us to be a blessing.

For the people of North Carolina, for pastors and parishioners, for plaintiffs and attorneys, for all who speak truth to power; for judges, who must discern the law, yet search their own hearts, and arrive at sound and just decisions, we ask your guidance, O God.

God of the Resurrection, free us to be a blessing.

O God, Easter is difficult.  In Christ's resurrection, you free us from ultimate fears yet, ironically, you send us out to face more immediate ones.  To be Christ's disciples!  Give us courage in the struggle for justice and peace.  Help us to bear one another's burdens in love.  Be the lordship and friendship that binds together the church in all unity, and help us to live out your oneness in our diversity, holding ever close to the promise that you always, always abide.  Forever.  In Christ's name, we pray, AMEN.

Words of Assurance

At Easter, in a darkened theatre once full of despair and disbelief, God brings to center stage the light and love that cannot be overcome.  So, today, let us choose to believe in the power of God's light and love to save and not disappoint.  And let us be Christ's brave church, a city on a hill, who invites all to come and see and taste what God is doing!  God is with us!  Thanks be to God!

Free Us to Be a Blessing was written by the Rev. Dr. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of the UCC's Local Church Ministries and a national officer of the United Church of Christ.

Copyright 2014 Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH  44115-1100.  Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education.  All publishing rights reserved.