Sunday’s Interfaith Prayer Service Indeed Did Honor to People Affected by Domestic Violence

Sunday's Interfaith Prayer Service was a moving tribute to survivors of domestic violence

Sunday's Interfaith Prayer Service was a moving tribute to survivors of domestic violence

I was encouraged by last night’s Interfaith Service Honoring Those Affected by Domestic Violence. First, people came. Whether anyone at all besides the organizers will come to a service at a different church in a different part of town on a Sunday evening when the day has been (for most people) full of other worship and other activities is always a concern. But people came, and in some numbers. There were more members of the ad hoc congregation than there were participants in the service — I generally take that as a good sign.

Second, the logistics all worked out. The programs showed up, the microphones and the lights came on, the speakers and texts all came together. For that, many thanks to the many people from around the Louisville community (named in the program for the service) who gave their time and talents on this Sunday night to make the service possible.

Third, and most important, the service itself was meaningful, and focused our attention on the challenge to faith posed by domestic violence, and the response that needs to rise to meet that challenge. The stories read by representatives of the Center for Women and Families underscored the harsh realities of domestic violence — waking up at night to a fist or a knife; fearing for children, friends, to say nothing of oneself; struggling with the complex, contradictory anxieties involved in separation and escape. The prayer beads we had collected, and used in an offering of prayers — griefs, concerns, hopes — served to make the purpose of the evening concrete and personal. But, I admit, the element of the service that affected me most was Claire and Heather Kresse’s dance to Mary Sue Barnett’s poem “Faith and Mary.” As ephemeral as a butterfly, as swift as a passing dream, the dance was a visual, dynamic representation of the peace and joy, the unselfconscious delight in life that is the inner meaning of all our talk of safety, that is the goal of the efforts to end domestic violence. It was like the echo of a promise, that was simultaneously a call to continue the work.

Such reminders are precious. In the conversation after the service, over the indispensable coffee and cookies, it was clear that everyone who attended had some special connection with domestic violence. Some were helping professionals, whose jobs revolve around or are frequently taken up with domestic violence and its aftermath. Some were friends, acquaintances, with a special interest in taking some action on the issue as a consequence of personal involvement. Some were members of faith communities who recognize the impact on those communities of domestic violence, and particularly, of the silence that so often keeps it hidden until its cataclysmic effects are felt. All face the dilemma that working on domestic violence risks seeing that violence swamp one’s consciousness, until everything everywhere takes on the colors and contours of the violence that one is working to dissipate. That state is the precursor to hopelessness. So the positive vision of the good that is being pursued, struggled for, lived towards is vital — and vitalizing.

We shared that vision last night. For that, and for that work that gives it hope of one day being realized, we are indeed thankful.

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