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I am asked to pray for the Spokane Valley City Council once or twice a year.

I am conflicted

I am asked to pray for the Spokane Valley City Council once or twice a year. The mayor always sends a nice thank you for my participation and I appreciate that. I am however conflicted. I believe in the separation of church and state and I also am sensitive to those who are of other faiths, both of these awareness's cause me to be a little reluctant to accept the invitation to offer a prayer at a public meeting of the city council.

I have seen the opportunity to pray at such gatherings used as a pulpit to push agendas, in fact I think I may have skated close to that transgression myself, once. My sensitivity to others is born out of an experience I had at my daughter’s graduation and I swore then that I would not alienate others through prayer.  The theology of that prayer (a Christian youth was praying) was so brutal that I could barely believe that her  faith and mine were both Christian. I felt very much an“outsider”. 

So, to minimize the risk of making others feel the way I felt, including friends of other religious communities, I have resorted to using prayers that are either from the ancient Christian tradition or from the Office of the Chaplin of the United States Congress. I have found these prayers to be current, poignant and safe.  Theologically I know that praying is not a safe activity because of what we might learn about ourselves, but pounding someone — who has come to participate in government — with a prayer doesn’t seem fair or what Jesus would do.

About John VanDerWalker

John VanDerWalker II serves as a Mission Research, Assessment and Support Specialist with the Western USA Mission Field of the Community of Christ.

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