For only the living can sing songs of praise (2021)

The dual pressures of COVID losses and rise of white supremacy and fascism from 2016 forward have called us to create new rituals within our prayer services. Simply listing the names of the dead seems insufficient if those names don’t call us to reflect and make change.

One way we’ve created shared ritual meaning over the years is to create statements of action/power that each member repeats and echoes in their own name. This is a very different gesture than a single statement with “we,” for the naming and the repetition actively creates community rather than merely stating that we are a community.

This spoken liturgy is meant to be use after an acknowledgement or accounting of the dead.

for only the living can sing songs of praise
Elliott batTzedek

To You, O Lord, I call,
and to You I plead.
“What profit in my blood
in my going downward?
Will dust acclaim You,
will it tell Your truth?”
from Robert Alter, Psalm 30

Because those who have died of COVID can no longer praise the world,
I, <name>, call out praises
for how my body breathes and breathes on its own,
every minute,
every day

Because those killed by the police
can no longer feel joy,
I, <name>, call out praises
for all that remains holy
and wild and precious,
even in these unholy times