Praying for the City of Baltimore
By the Rev. Jack Grubbs
I went to two candlelight services this week. Wednesday night I officiated at the Compline service presented by the Maryland State Boychoir. Compline is a traditional evening service thanking God for the day that is over and committing yourself to Him for the night’s rest. The Maryland State Boychoir is known nationally and internationally for their musicianship and repertoire. Their director is a friend and he invited me to lead the liturgical part of the service.
They held compline in a hundred year old cathedral style stone church with high arches and stained glass. The choir entered singing in procession with candles and incense. I sat in the choir loft with them and for much of the service closed my eyes and reveled in the beauty and power of their voices. Praises to God sung magnificently.
Thursday evening was different, starkly so. This was a memorial service for a young man shot in cold blood on Sunday night. Everyone gathered on the sidewalk in front of the row houses at the spot where his body was found. Family, friends, neighbors and members of our church spilled out into the street blocking an entire lane of traffic as person after person spoke through the portable sound system.
It was like the community memorials you see on the news, in fact a reporter came and the story was on ABC local news at eleven, but this became personal. I didn’t know Gerome, who was in his 30’s, left several children behind and was doing nothing illicit to put him at risk of being attacked. However, he and his family are very close to Pastor Carletta Wright at our church. We shared her pain over losing someone she called her nephew. We came out to support her and comfort Gerome’s family as well as to affirm that we are with the community. I saw the tears, felt the grief and sensed the crushing heaviness.
Pastor Carletta preached up a storm. Gerome’s mother said he was her second son to be killed in less than two years but that “the Man Upstairs had her.” We read Scripture, talked about God’s love, and prayed with people. The power of Jesus was proclaimed over and over again.
Oh God, You are so majestic and your world, your good creation, is so shattered. But your glory breaks in through exquisite musical settings of the Psalms and by lifting up the name of Jesus on the sidewalk. You desire earth to be more like heaven…Your Kingdom come, Your will be done here as it is around your throne. Let the beauty of the cathedral spill out to the grieving community and let the brokenhearted find hope in the fact that You are not confined to houses of worship. You stand in the crowd at candlelight memorials and want to put an end to the need for them.