The Christmas Eve candles came out early on Sunday at Kansas City’s Community Christian Church.
They burned while congregants sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” an intentional prayer just two days before Election Day.
The day after ballots are cast, the church’s senior minister, the Rev. Shanna Steitz, and pianist Tim Whitmer will lead a “Jazz Vespers,” a post-election prayer service in the intimate space of the church’s chapel.
No sermon, just bipartisan jazz and Scriptural reminders that no matter whose candidate has been sent to the Oval Office, we are still one nation, more alike than we are different.
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“By Wednesday, I think people will just need a space to be able to breathe, a space with some quiet,” said Steitz. “All of this has just been so noisy, and this will give people a quiet, safe space away from all the words.”
Churches and faith groups across the country are ready to shepherd a divided nation through the rubble of this acrimonious, bitter, divisive election season.
Congregations like Community Christian have lined up services designed around themes of healing and unity over the next few days and beyond to lift a dispirited electorate above the rancor.
“There’s plenty of division in our country every year, but this year’s election is different,” the Rev. Adam Hamilton, founding pastor of Leawood-based United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, told the Associated Press.
Four of the church’s locations will be polling places on Tuesday, and Hamilton has invited people — congregants and nonmembers alike — to stop and pray for the nation to heal itself.
“Our families are divided. We’re divided sometimes from our friends. Even when we’re in church here our politics are different,” Hamilton said. “And I think we have to be reminded that there’s a bigger picture here.”
Halfway across the country in New Jersey, the Episcopal bishop of Newark, the Rev. Mark Beckwith, will lead an “Interfaith Service of Post-Election Reconciliation” Wednesday at the diocese’s cathedral.
“As the threats, insults, and provocation became more important, it seemed this was something we needed to do,” Beckwith told NewJersey.com.
“There is no doubt that people are going to be angry and scared on Wednesday no matter how this turns out. Congregations will engage in the ancient practice of reconciliation in their churches, and I am inviting them to bring that spirit of reconciliation out into the world.”
In Washington, D.C., the National Cathedral has set up a series of services beginning Wednesday devoted to healing and reconciliation. Morning, noon and evening services will focus on looking ahead.
In Elgin, Ill., the First Congregational Church will respond “to the deep divisions in our nation” with a candlelight healing meditation and prayer service Thursday night. The church plans to continue the services, as needed, over the next year.
A unity service for “healing our nation” begins at lunchtime on Wednesday at Avondale Presbyterian Church, in Charlotte, N.C.
“We invite all to come take a few minutes, the day after the end of elections, to unite in spirit with others around our nation.,” reads the church’s invitation to the public, which has also been invited to pack a lunch and spend quiet, contemplative time in the church’s Sacred Garden.
In Virginia, St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Chesapeake will host a service after the polls close on Tuesday to help people “come together for the healing of the country and the healing of relationships,” the Rev. Lottie Cochran told The Virginian-Pilot.
Faith leaders have been troubled for months as they’ve watched bitter, divisive politics spill into their own congregations and pull people apart.
“I do think this is one of the ugliest elections ever,” Rennie Salata, pastor at Acton United Methodist Church, told the Citizen-Times in Asheville, N.C.
“I think it’s part of something that’s been brewing and around for quite a while — the polarization of our politics. I think we’ve finally come to a place where we’re not actually able to communicate with each other without yelling at each other, and I think this election really brought this out in way nobody anticipated.”
So Salata’s church and others in Asheville are holding communion services on election day to encourage civility, and cool heads.
“As a pastor, I really believe there is no rift from which we cannot be reconciled, but the work of reconciliation is hard and long and takes a lot of intention,” said Salata.
For some churches, that work begins on Election Eve.
Monday night, the Roman Catholic diocese of Manchester, N.H., will host a special “Mass for Our Nation,” a chance for people to get down on their knees and pray for the country and its future.
People of all faiths are invited “not as red voters or blue voters,” but “as one people under God,” the Rev. Andrew Nelson told The Union-Leader.
Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle doesn’t traditionally hold prayer vigils before an election. But anxious parishioners this year seemed to need it, Steven Thomason, dean of the church, told KUOW in Seattle.
He’s invited Jewish and Muslim leaders, as well as local and national elected officials, to attend the interfaith service.
No politics. Just prayers.
“What we’ve heard in recent days is people across the community are really desiring something of this nature and since this cathedral — since it was built 90 years ago — has served that purpose for the city of Seattle we’re opening our doors and inviting people to be a part of that,” Thomason said.
In Beaverton, Oregon, leaders at five local Christian churches have extended a special invitation Monday night for residents to pray before they vote.
“The ‘ick’ factor is high in this election. This worship service is an opportunity to take a long, hot, metaphorical shower,” John Shuck, pastor of the sponsoring church, Southminster Presbyterian, told KOIN 6.
“This is an opportunity to decompress and to, hopefully, get out of ‘battle mode’ and, regardless of what happens … accept the results even if we didn’t agree with them, and build our community.”