Hiroshima and Nagasaki Memorial Observance Worship and Prayer Resources
UMH = The United Methodist Hymnal
BOW = The United Methodist Book of Worship
TFWS = The Faith We Sing
W&S = Worship & Song
"U.S. airman Matthew McGunigle photographed the Hiroshima blast. After the war, he entered a monastery and took a vow of silence."
— From the narration of the film The Original Child Bomb.
More people on the earth were born after the tragic moment in 1945 than were alive at the time of the atomic blast. Yet those who died still cry out to heaven and earth, even to those who do not remember the headlines or the news from that day: Let all the souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil.
These words are inscribed on a stone block at the site of the blast.
First of all, this compilation and original resources come in response to churches and communities asking for assistance in gathering to pray on the occasion of sixty years passing since the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Point of view. The point of such observations could be to offer political leverage and to give a prophetic witness against the further development, stockpiling, and use of atomic weapons of mass destruction by any nation or group. That is a reasonable and action-oriented way to think of such gatherings. However, if the Holy Spirit gathers us as disciples attentive to God, the reason to be together is about God and to be in the presence of God for the life of the world. That too is profoundly political, but it might be more about God's politics than our own.
Such worship requires assistance from historians, artists, photographers, theologians, and liturgists to enter into a disturbing landscape — a landscape that mushroomed up sixty years ago and has continued as a threat to God's creation ever since. Some may find what follows to be biased or slanted in a particular direction. However, as compiler, I believe that what is offered here stands clearly within biblical witness and the commitment of the General Conference on the matters of war and peace as found in the "Social Principles" of The United Methodist Church. See The Book of Discipline, 2004, (¶166, pp. 123-124). In addition to prayer as a part of gathered worship, educational settings for study and dialogue should be offered in order to help Christians and interfaith partners to deal with disagreements, express points of view, and listen for the "still small voice" of the Spirit.
We are not all in the same place on the meaning and significance of what happened sixty years ago or what the place nuclear weapons should or should not have in global strategies. These matters need to be brought out into the light of reflection, prayer, and shared action. Let us name the "demons" and bring them and ourselves to the triune God in worship.
When and who? August 6 is the day, but a congregation or several congregations or interfaith communities could gather on another day near to August 6. If the gathering is to be interfaith (Christians and non-Christians), plan carefully and exercise mutual respect in the choice of prayers and liturgical actions included. This does not mean that the name of Jesus Christ, or Allah, or Yahweh, or Krishna cannot be mentioned. We should not "homogenize" our traditions in order to pray.
- If Christians gather, the service could be a service of Holy Communion/Word and Table, or a service of the Word. In Holy Communion, Christians are restored and renewed in their baptismal identity. We are immersed in the depth of whose we are and who we are to be "in ministry to all the world until Christ's final victory."
- If it is interfaith, then it will need to be a different sort of service of prayer, welcoming of each community's tradition without syncretism. If Hindus or Sikhs offer prayer, then those of other faith traditions can witness the prayers without praying. When Christians, Jews, and Muslims pray or read from the Bible or Quran, the Hindus or Taoists can witness the offering without participating. The world after Hiroshima is too small for fighting and exclusivism. Such gatherings can witness to our sharing one world in our diversity.
- If this anniversary is observed on a Sunday the observance should be incorporated in the liturgy for the day, rather than be the sole focus of the day. See BOW 422 guidance for special days in the context of the Christian year.
If observance of the anniversary of the blast will occur in regularly scheduled Lord's Day services, the Revised Common Lectionary readings are recommended. If not, one or more of the following may be used.
- Isaiah 1:12-20 — Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow
- Isaiah 51:1-6 — God will comfort earth's waste places; God's salvation is forever
- Psalm 2:1-12 — Why do the nations contradict God?
- Psalm 24 — The earth is the Lord's
- 1 Peter 3:1-18 — Time and space are in God's keeping; what sort of people should we be?
- Matthew 5:3-12 — The Beatitudes
The Beatitudes could be read by a leader, with all singing a refrain at the beginning and following each verse such as:
- 2058 TFWS ("Shepherd Me O God")
- 2054 TFWS ("Nothing Can Trouble/Nada te Turbe")
- 375 UMH ("There Is A Balm in Gilead")
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Confession and Pardon
God, the keeper of the atoms and stars:
You made us collaborators in creation,
but we have pilfered the secrets of ordered existence
and justified their immoral use in the name of "security" and "peace."
We could say then that we didn't know the consequences.
Now we do know, but we are complacent and silent.
Lord, have mercy.
We have abused the glue of the universe.
We have made and stockpiled weapons of mass destruction
instead of saying "No" to their use for evil.
Fear and presumption have driven us
to be ready to annihilate untold lives and
make areas of the earth uninhabitable.
Christ, have mercy.
Open our eyes to see how small and fragile the planet is and
how the destruction of any human being diminishes all.
Heal the wounds opened with the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Mend the fabric of the human family.
Will in us never to repeat this evil.
Lord, have mercy.
The time of confession could be followed by "Goodness Is Stronger than Evil" (2219 TFWS), "God Weeps" (2048 TFWS), or "Forgive Us Lord"/"Perdon Senor" (2134 TFWS). The mood and tone can be set by a cantor or solo voice.
Then a leader declares words of assurance or speaks a word of pardon.
Litanies of Intercession
- Mennonite Memorial Litany
- Never Again
May be used as a choral reading — voice 1 and voice 2, or as a litany — right and left sides.
Never Again Security. Peace. Lasting. Well-being. Shalom. Prosperity. For generations. Gone. (Pause) Lost. Abandoned. Why? How? War. Madness. The bomb. Atomic. Megatons. Two hundred thousand People. Burned. Sickened. Radiation. Gone. (Pause) Why? Security? Peace? Lasting? Well-being? (Pause) Never again. On the brink. Brinksmanship. O God. Have mercy. O God. Save us. O God. Help us. O God. Let all the souls lost in Hiroshima and Nagasaki rest in peace. O God,
resolve in us:
We shall not repeat this evil. All: Never again. (A brief silence)
All sing one of the following:
- "For One Great Peace" (TFWS 2185)
- "Come Now, O Prince of Peace" (TFWS 2322) (accompanied by a flute or oboe)
- "Walk with Me" (TFWS 2242)
- "Come and Fill Our Hearts" (TFWS 2157)
- "Give Peace" (TFWS 2156)
- "Why Has God Forsaken Me?" (TFWS 2110)
Affirmation of Faith
- Our Social Creed, 2004 Book of Discipline, ¶166, p. 125
- The World Methodist Social Affirmation, UMH 886 (musical version in pdf)
Great Thanksgiving (if celebrating Word and Table)
- BOW 70-71
- Great Thanksgivingthat focuses on Easter themes and is suited to the precarious, hope-filled world in which we live
2048 God Weeps (the tune name is Hiroshima)
2219 Goodness Is Stronger than Evil
2134 Forgive Us Lord/Perdon Senor
2232 Come Now, O Prince of Peace (O-so-so)
2171 Make Me a Channel of Your Peace
2185 For One Great Peace
2183 Unsettled World
2170 God Made from One Blood
719 My Lord, What a Morning
433 All who love and serve your city
426 Behold a broken world
188 Christ is the world's light
450 Creator of the earth and skies
327 Crown him with many crowns
376 Dona nobis pacem
428 For the healing of the nations
567 Heralds of Christ
178 Hope of the world
218 It came upon the midnight clear
580 Lead on, O King eternal
440 Let there be light
431 Let there be peace on earth
159 Lift high the cross
556 Litany for Christian Unity
211 O come, O come, Emmanuel
730 O day of God, draw nigh
729 O day of peace that dimly shines
435 O God of every nation
449 Our earth we now lament to see
437 This is my song
375 There Is a Balm in Gilead
533 We shall overcome
439 We utter our cry
442 Weary of all trumpeting
Music Resources from Worship & Song
"When Words Alone Cannot Express," 3012
"Creation Sings," . 3018
"You, Lord, Are Both Lamb and Shepherd," 3043
"Chinese Lantern Carol," 3054
"Welcome to Our World," 3067
"Blessed Is He Who Comes in God’s Name," 3077
"Who Is He Who Comes in Triumph," 3082
"Come to the Water," 3114
"Here Is Peace," 3123
"Everything that Has Voice," 3126
"I Have a Dream," 3127
"Touch the Earth Lightly," 3129
"Let Our Earth Be Peaceful," 3159
Worship Resources from Worship & Song
"Gracious God, your vision of peace," 2
"Great God of waves and flames," 12
"This is the Good News," 33
"In defiance of corruption and falsehood," 77
"Almighty God, in raising Jesus," 87
"Eternal God, we are grateful," 95
"Blessed One, we discover such a contrast," 129
"Lord of Peace and Hope," 139
"Almighty God, you gave us your commandments," 156
"Go out into the world in peace," 165
"Holy Trinity, outgoing, sending," 172
"Make my life a libation," 190
"Haz de mi vida un sacrificio," 190
"Living God, Holy Trinity," no. 193
BOW (prayers and ritual resources)
521 A Vision of Hope
526-527 For the World and Its Peoples
433 Litany for United Methodist Student Day
560-561 Dismissal and Blessing
- The 2004 Book of Discipline, ¶166, pp. 123-124 on "War and Peace"
- Mennonite Memorial Litany
- Pictures can be found by searching on Google, using keywords such as "Hiroshima," "Nagasaki," or "atomic bomb." (Use the "Images" tab at the top of the page.)