Words and Worship after the Tornado
By Diana Sanchez-Bushong, Derek Weber, and Cynthia Wilson
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.” - Psalm 46:1-3 NRS
“Once again we are reminded of the fragility of life.” These were the words uttered by Nashville Mayor John Cooper, at a press conference Tuesday morning, March 3, even before the full extent of the devastation was known. We are stunned into silence when we see the power of the forces of nature, that in a heartbeat can destroy our sense of security and comfort as the things of this life, and at times even life and health itself, are swept away in hundred mile-an-hour wind. We stand with broken hearts with all those who are impacted by the storm, even when we have no words.
But then out of the silence can come hope, can come worship, can come the sense that God is still God and has not left us even in this dark time. The psalms bear witness to this. (Psalm 91:1-2, 27:5, 93:4, 57:1-2). The prophets remind us of this. (Isaiah 43:2, Nahum 1:7). Paul reminds us that “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9 NRS). Not destroyed. Our faith remains, our hope remains, our strength remains as a community. Already the #NashvilleStrong memes are appearing. People are stepping up in response, to give, to help clear away the debris, to provide the shelter that was blown away, to give a sense of normalcy to those who are devastated. Fred Rogers famously said to children faced with tragedy, “Look for the helpers.” To first responders and official personnel, to relief agencies like UMCOR and others, but then to the wider community who will stand with the hurting; we look to and join with the helpers. And we give God thanks for them and for the faith that will not let us go.
Nashville Area Bishop Bill McAlilly's Response to Tornadoes in Middle Tennessee
"I was saddened when I woke up this morning and discovered that tornadoes had ripped through our area last night affecting so many here in middle Tennessee. We especially pray for those families who have lost loved ones."
Here are some prayers and hymns and thoughts that might help you and your faith community show our continued faith in God and in the community as we begin the long recovery.
The prayers below have been written by The Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel (liturgybytlw.com) and adapted by Rev. Dr. Cynthia Wilson. (3/2020)
Loving, protecting God, we thank you for bringing us to the end of devastating tornado.
Though our lives have been touched deeply and changed dramatically by this calamity, still you have been faithful to show us your infinite love by sending abundant blessings as life is restored around us again. Keep us mindful of your Lordship in our lives, that our lost loved ones are safe in you, that we still have dreams worth dreaming by your will, and that during this Lenten Season you are fully the source of our comfort and health. Keep us ever faithful to your reign as Shepherd of our hearts, our minds, and our spirits, that we might always give thanks to you, our tower and strength; to you be all honor and glory, now and forever.
Prayer at a Shelter or Place of Waiting
The following assumes the knowledge that a hurricane or tornado has struck the local community, and that while some, most, or all of those gathered may be all right, there is much concern for what damage may be found, what lives may have been lost, when people are finally allowed to depart from the place of waiting and shelter.
Leader: My dear friends, the tornado has passed over our community. Many of us are safe, though wearied perhaps by our ordeal. Our concerns now are for what we do not know, what we cannot see, what we cannot help quite yet, except by bringing our prayers to our Triune God. Let us do that now, in thanksgiving for our lives and in heartfelt intercession for our community and those we love.
Let us pray. (A moment of silence)
Lord God, the first ordeal has passed, and you have seen fit to spare us with your mighty hand. For this we thank you with all our hearts, our souls, and our minds. Truly we praise you for your saving favor among us.
The next ordeal is still before us. Our minds are stirring with anxiety and question. What shall we find when we go from this place? What damage will confront us? What losses will we encounter? What strength will be required for us to go forward in our lives?
We know that we cannot face this without you being with us, telling us what matters and what doesn't, whispering in our ears that it will be all right, giving us knowledge that nothing can separate us from your infinite love; neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, can ever separate us from your love. And we know that it will be that love that will help us to go on from here. By faith we will survive what lies ahead.
Loving God, we believe, but help our unbelief, increase our faith, and teach us to pray the prayer Jesus taught his disciples saying (you may pray in the language nearest to your heart):
Our Father . . .
Most Holy God,
We are a people who need you in your fullness
— as Creator God, Redeeming Son, and Sustaining Spirit.
Our lives have been complicated by the ravages of this devastating storm.
But we were made in your image, and the wind of Your Spirit was breathed into us
that we might experience hope in your goodness, even in the midst of a storm.
There are situations that make it hard to be aware of that goodness.
We pray now for those whose lives have been affected by these winds of destruction.
When storms and tornadoes are so strong they destroy even the homes designed to withstand them . . . (brief silence)
When political battles bring out pettiness over issues too important for bickering . . . (brief silence)
When our hearts ache, hurt by the loss of loved ones, friends, neighbors . . . (brief silence)
When we are exhausted emotionally from illnesses in ourselves . . . (brief silence)
When we are overwhelmed by loneliness and isolation even though you are always with us . . . (brief silence)
ALL: Gracious and Merciful Lord,
our church is working to hear the words of your Spirit.
Our desire is to learn what and who you are calling us to be in your world.
We call out to you that we might have the courage to give to you
whatever burdens we entered with today so that our hearts and minds can be open to you,
to your Word, and to your Spirit -
- the same life-giving breath from the first of creation.
Christ challenges us to know you, God, as one who would search us out if we are lost.
But we must also know that when we are not the "one,"
we are members of the ninety-nine waiting together for your guidance.
So it is together that we use our breath to pray the words Christ taught us:
Our Father . . .
Copyright © 2004 Andrea Murdock. Used by permission, adapted by Rev. Dr. Cynthia A Wilson.
This liturgical resource may be printed, copied, distributed, reprinted in church bulletins or newsletters, or otherwise used for nonprofit local church worship or education with the inclusion of the copyright citation. It may not be used for profit or reproduced in other media without prior permission of the author. Discipleship Ministries shares it as both an example and a usable expression of intercession for the world, the church, and all in need. If you use it in your setting, be sure to adapt it to your own context at the time of use.
Tennessee Conference's Tornado Response 2020
We are grateful for your prayers and financial assistance for all of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been directly affected by the tornadoes in our area.
When the Storms of Life are Raging
Song suggestions for corporate and individual worship
The following are some hymns and songs suggested for use in worship following a crisis, natural disaster, or other such event. These selections provide a means for the congregation to share their pain and suffering, as well as giving hope in God’s continued faithfulness throughout all the trials faced in life.
The Faith We Sing
- You are Mine 2218
- O Lord Hear My Prayer 2200
- Kyrie 2275
- His Eye is on the Sparrow 2146
- Be Still and Know That I am God 2057
Songs of Zion
- I Been in the Storm So Long 144
- Lord, Help Me to Hold Out 194
- Shine on Me 227
Worship & Song
- Still 3134
- In God Alone 3135
- When the Waves are Crushing 3144
Zion Still Sings
- Remember Me 158
- I Need you to Survive 219
- Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying 156
- Stand By Me 164
- There is A Balm 114
United Methodist Hymnal
- Great Is Thy Faithfulness 140
- It is Well 377
- O God Our Help 117
- Precious Lord 474
- Stand by Me 512
Other Modern Praise and Worship Songs
- It is Well – Bethel Music
- One Thing Remains – Matt Redman