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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Prayer Vigil for SB City Council

At noon today a group of area clergy and people who work with the homeless population of Santa Barbara gathered outside of the City Hall for a prayer vigil. Why a prayer vigil? There is tension between the business community and some meal providers. The number of people showing up for noon meals is growing. Before and after meals are served they walk on, pass through and congregate on an area street. This growing presence of homelessness is problematic for business owners. So there is a discussion underway about revoking the condition use permit to provide meals to the homeless (and some are not homeless but just hungry). But then where would they eat? It's not a simple problem and the best community leaders are committed to both feeding the hungry and making streets safe and businesses attractive.

Can you see what a can of worms this is? It's something I'd rather not get drawn into. But when I was asked to be one of the pray-ers, I had to say yes. Who cannot pray for God to guide leaders in something so ethically weighty? Five clergy prayed: Jewish, Unitarian, Methodist, Roman Catholic, and Evangelical (me). Below is the prayer I prayed:

"God you love cities. In your plan cities are places of refuge and hope. Cities dispense justice at their gates. Cities are where the schools and hospitals nest. Cities gather wisdom and art, business and trade. Lord you made cities to be places of safety and security.

Yet, O God, cities experience brokenness like individuals do. That’s why we are coming before you today Lord, to pray for this city, the city of Santa Barbara and its leaders. They face a big challenge Lord, of balancing needs and priorities, demands and concerns and knowing what is the right thing to do. Give your leaders wisdom and discernment today to find solutions and collaborative ways to be the city you want us to be.

We pray for those in our city who are hungry and need to eat. May they be fed with grace and dignity in ways that please you. We thank you for all those individuals and groups who give of their time and money to feed hungry people.

We pray for those who own businesses and live in our neighborhoods. God give them safety and security. During these tough economic times, help them to be wise and creative. And we pray for businesses in our community to thrive and blossom. We pray for safety on our streets and sidewalks where children go to school and parents push their babies and seniors gather for conversations and young people play soccer. We pray for our law enforcement officers who regularly stand in harms way to ensure safety and justice.

O God, keep shaping us into a city that pleases you. Amen."

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