As many are aware, Lutherans and Episcopalians in Nevada recently joined to do social justice advocacy together at the state level. Lutheran-Episcopal Advocacy in Nevada (LEAN) is the first joint venture in the history of the two denominations, and is expected to be a model for similar efforts elsewhere in the country. It builds on strengths of both churches: Lutherans have a centuries-long tradition of advocacy, and have done advocacy at the state level for many years. Episcopalians, through their nationwide Episcopal Public Policy Network, have a sophisticated communication network which makes excellent use of electronic media. The two churches bring these complementary backgrounds and skills together to build an advocacy effort that uses the principles of community organizing to identify and address concerns at the state, as opposed to federal, level.
Lutherans and Episcopalians are connected in another way as well. Both are part of the Nevada Clergy Association. The Association is a non-profit interfaith network of religious and spiritual leaders in Nevada. The Nevada Clergy Association recently hosted its annual Prayer Breakfast. This year’s event focused on recognition of Nevada’s 150th anniversary. (The “Sesquicentennial” celebrates Nevada’s entry as a State of the United States of America in 1864, 150 years ago.)
As part of the recognition, the Nevada Clergy Association presented an oversized quilt to the State of Nevada. The “150 Commission” is the official committee that has organized events around the state, and the Commission has been collecting artifacts which will be displayed around the state and eventually reside in the State Historical Museum. The quilt which the association presented has fifteen unique squares, each representing a different faith tradition. Each was designed and made by members of that tradition. The Lutheran and Episcopal quilt squares are next to each other, perhaps by Divine design.
The quilt symbolizes the work of the Nevada Clergy Association, which is so well expressed in their explanation of the breakfast: “The Nevada Prayer Breakfast is a gathering of citizens—as well as civic, business, and community leaders—who wish to pray on behalf of our State and bring the spiritual resources of the community together to bear on issues that face Nevadans. Although members of the community may believe differently in their approach to the Divine, we gather at the Nevada Prayer Breakfast as equals. Together, we devote our energies to the good of the State of Nevada. Together, we pray.”
The Invocation for this year’s Prayer Breakfast was delivered by Rabbi Ethan Bair of Temple Sinai in Reno. Rabbi Bair’s prayer is a wonderful statement about Advocacy—why we do it, and what we hope to accomplish. He has most graciously allowed us to reproduce his Invocation here:
A Prayer for Nevada
Ribbono shel Olam, Master of the Universe, the One God who goes by so many different names and forms, we pray today for the health, well-being and future of our great state of Nevada. May the next 150 years be greater than our first. God, help us to recognize holiness in our own spiritual traditions, and in the religions of others as well. Give us the strength, dear God, to grow, to become better at being human. Give us the capacity to love ever-more deeply, to create ever more healthy habits of the heart in how we treat one another. Teach us again, the simple power of civil discourse. Give us hope and strength that overpowers cynicism and fear.
Help us to be pursuers of peace and wholeness in our communities, the strength to repair our justice system and education system and human systems. Help us to change our wasteful ways when it comes to the Earth. Give us the chutzpa, the holy tenacity, to stand up to the Pharaohs and adversaries in our midst who would put corporate profits before people; special interests before people’s basic needs. And help sustain each of us to become informed and engaged public citizens, people of values and vision. People who live in the present in a way that says, we have a future worth working towards and we know it. God, please inspire the work of our hands, hearts and lips. That we may see a day when the Earth is not prisoner to our greed, but industry and government are protectors of the Earth. We have failed to be good stewards of the precious Earth you have given to our care. We have failed to protect, educate and give our children a world more perfect than we found it. Help us to change course, that our children’s future may be filled with promise, not pollution and peril.
We pray for the politicians of our state, to realign their priorities with a long-term perspective for prosperity, fairness, justice and environmental stewardship. And we ask for Your blessing to give us the peace that comes with a sound direction. May our path lead us to a more sustainable, equitable, and conscious society. May we forever value and spread the light of the diversity and harmony contained within this room. May diversity be our strength as we uproot ignorance, bigotry and hatred in all its forms. And may our fate forever bend toward justice through the depth, the spirit and the wisdom of our shared humanity.
And together we say, Amen.
As we Lutherans and Episcopalians build our joint Advocacy effort, let us strive for the goals set forth in this prayer, and join, whenever possible, with other faiths, to speak out for the least among us.