Worship resources for Australian bush fires

Worship Resources for Bushfire Emergencies

  Below you will find worship resources for the Australian Bushfire Emergencies with prayers, songs and liturgies included in the list.

 

 INTRODUCTION

Rev. Alex Sangster, Transforming Worship Circle Advocate

Lament is a coracle to hold our pain as we navigate the waters of grief and rage.
Do not be afraid to lead your people into lament these next few weeks.
Do not be afraid to sit in the valley of the shadow.

We can only act for justice once we have wept for the loss of life: human, animal, wild gum.
As folk who hold sacred space...our country needs not only our solidarity and our action but also our holding of the wailing and the weeping and wonder at the losses.

The prayers of us all in the Transforming Worship Circle…go with Gods speed...
to the places of darkest sky and thickest smoke
and to all the volunteers and to those who love them.

We send forth our love as power to our firefighters and our chaplains and our Emergency Workers and wildlife rescuers.
To the mothers and the fathers and old folk standing at the doors of their homes as the sky roars up before them.
We send forth our love as power to our armed forces and to our children, who huddle behind the embrace of their shielding parent..
We send forth our love as power...
And may God hold our burning land, in the hollow of Her hand, helping us all to be renewed in the Spirit...

Amen

 


PRAYERS

 Where Were You God?
A prayer by Rev. Elizabeth Raine

Where were you God?
Where were you when the fires raged across the land?
I was hosing down my house.

I was watching and waiting.
I was moving my pets to safer places.

Where were you when the fires destroyed houses
and snuffed out lives and wilderness?

I was cowering in fear on a beach
I was facing a wall of flame.

 I was caught in the swirling debris and embers.
Where were you God, when tragedy struck?

I was overcome by smoke.
I was letting go.

I was following the light that leads to eternity.
Where were you when the fires died down?

I was standing on the blackened earth.
I was weeping with grief.

I was comforting the weary firefighters.
Where were you in the days that followed?

I was seeking for signs of wildlife.
I was sleeping on my best friend’s couch.

I was searching for lost mementos among the ashes.
Where are you now God, where are you now?

I am where I always am.
Right where you are.
Always.

 (Adapted from a poem written after the Boxing Day tsunami by The Rev. Jennie Gordon – Preston Parish UCA, Vic.)

 


 Hear our prayers, O God,

in this moment of waiting, anticipating,
waiting, and hoping,
as we see events unfolding in our land,
anxiety rising,
fears growing,
hurts accumulating.

We have seen the photos, Lord.
We have watched from afar,
horrified, terrified.
We have heard the accounts,
listened to the tales of loss and destruction,
and learnt the names of those who have died.

We have felt the heat,
searing heat, scorching heat;
we have watched the smoke,
insidious, permeating everything,
snaking its way into our region;
and we have become weary,

We have inhaled the smoke,
coughed and wheezed,
closed the windows and the doors,
waited for the change in wind direction.
Now it is inside ... inside our homes,
inside our lives, inside our beings.

And still the photos, the images, come;
the searing flames, the plumes of smoke,
the walls of fire, the crowning fires;
the valiant citizens, hoses in hand,
the sobbing homeless, utterly devastated;
we have watched them, from afar,
thankfully, from afar.

And we wait, and ponder,
and hope, and grieve,
in this moment of waiting, anticipating,
waiting, and hoping,
as we see events unfolding in our land.

For those with the skills and knowledge,
the energy and the capacity,
to stand and fight the fires,
we are grateful, immensely grateful.
Strengthen them, O God,
strengthen them through the food willingly provided,
the leave willingly offered,
through the places of rest and recovery
and the comfort of the chaplains on hand.

For those who have lost property and homes,
whose neighbours and animals have been evacuated,
whose memories and possessions are gone,
we are sorrowing.
Comfort them, O God,
comfort them through the presence of listening ears
as well as through the offers of tangible support.

For those who are mourning the deaths
of fathers, husbands, sons, friends,
we stand silent, in solidarity, in grief;
comfort them, we know not how,
comfort them through the skill of counsellors and chaplains,
comfort them through the support of friends and family.
For them, we grieve,
just as we grieve for the creatures of the bush lands
where fires have spread,
wreaking havoc, causing chaos,
destroying everything in their midst.
And the native animals die in the inferno
and the ashes spread over the sand of beaches
and the dams are emptied, the dust bowls grow larger,
the birds have no trees as their habitat is destroyed,
and we watch as the climate changes, the damage grows,
the omens line up, the signs become clearer.

And we wait, and ponder,
and hope, and grieve,
in this moment of waiting, anticipating,
waiting, and hoping,
as we see events unfolding in our land.

We wonder about what will come next,
we worry about how close it will come to us,
we worry about what future we are leaving for others.

Give us a firm resolve, O God,
a resolve to live our lives in ways
that respect and value all of your creation.

Give to our leaders, O God, a clear understanding
of the critical moment of choice that is here:
a crisis point in our life as community,
a crisis where leadership is needed;
clear-headed, engaged and informed,
committed to charting a course
that will turn us away from having heads in the sand,
a course that will enable us
to reduce our carbon outputs,
foster renewable sources of energy,
and live as a country that reduces our impact year by year.

These are our prayers, O God,
in this moment of waiting, anticipating,
waiting, and hoping.

Hear our prayers, O God.

Rev Dr John Squires

 


 

This Christmas, there will be lights in the sky
and farmers and firefighters and family will cower in fear
when they see the smoke, the fingers of fire
and know that devastation and danger draws near.

The light and the fire will tell out the news
of heat and drought and climate change on earth
and ashes will settle near humble homes and hospitals
where mothers have just given birth.

And so, let us pray for the miracle
of one holy, silent night,
and the power and presence of God to rain down
and put the world to right.

 Rev. Yvonne Ghavalas

 


 

The Disaster Recovery Chaplain’s Prayer
Source: Written by UCA National Disaster Recovery Officer Rev. Dr Stephen Robinson

Gracious God,
You brought light out of darkness.
You formed the beauty of creation from the waters of chaos.
You raised us from the very dust of the earth and brought life from death.
We thank you for your grace, your faithfulness, and your strength to restore.
Unite your people to bless all who suffer in darkness, chaos, grief and loss.
Grant us your guidance and strength,
to serve faithfully as people of hope.
For your sake, and that of all you love, we pray,

 Amen

 


God of all
Source:
Jon Humphries

God of all,
In the face of terror, we pray peace.
In the face of sorrow, we pray tears.
In the face of heartache, we pray release.
In the face of anger, we pray calm.
In the face of hate, we pray compassion.
In the face of insult, we pray respect.
In the face of selfishness, we pray grace.
In the face of wrong doing, we pray forgiveness
In the face of enemies, we pray reconciliation.
In the face of the overwhelming, we pray faith.
In the face of tomorrow, we pray hope.

God of all,
Spirit of wisdom,
Christ of the Cross,
In all things, we pray love.

Amen

 


Why Does It Sometimes Feel That You Have Forsaken Us God?

(Echoing Psalm 22) Jon Humphries

Our God, Our God,
Why does it feel that you have forsaken us?
Why is so much of what we hold dear burnt or washed away?
Why is what we worked for decimated and destroyed?
How do we recover from such devastation and suffering?
Where will we find hope?

Surely, our hope is in you,
For you are with us as the Christ,
And as the Spirit.
The stuff of life might be taken away,
We might lose loved ones,

Our circumstances and situation unalterably changed,
But your love is with us.

In Jesus we can find hope.
In the Scriptures we can find encouragement.
Help us to put out of our minds the trite platitudes of the well-meaning,
And immerse ourselves in the grit of your way,
Which too often knows suffering,

But which lifts our souls,
And brings peace which transcends all understanding.
God, please be our help and strength in our struggles,
This we truly pray.

 Amen.

 

Jon Humphries

 


A confession
Source: Rev. Daniel Mossfield, see also God Incarnate in a Thirsty Land, blogpost on
Old Wine in New Skin 

 A confession:
God who thirsts,
forgive us for not seeing you.

Forgive us for not seeing you through the precious gift of creation,
affirmed through incarnation,
and brought to devastation,
by our lack of consideration for the land.

Forgive us for not seeing you in the stranger at our door,
who came, seeking something more,
but was locked away offshore,
because we did not know before, what it was to have no home.

But as the flames engulf us now,
and all hope at last seems lost:
We give thanks, that you are not among the clouds,
but here with us,
incarnate,
God who thirsts.

 


 Fire Season Resources
Source:
Hyphenated Faith written by Rev. Dr Amelia Koh Butler

 On beaches

People sit quietly in clutters of possessions,
Anxiously waiting for weather reports and messages…
Have mercy, O breath of God.
We ask for good news.

Children stray too far from the water’s edge
and are herded back to the safety of the sea…
Have mercy, Holy One who commands the waters.
We ask for secure children.

Sounds of storm are interrupted by piercing sirens,
yet no one turns their head.
Have mercy, Sacred Guide, on the drivers.
As exhaustion takes its toll,
we ask for their refreshment and recovery.

 The sky turns from gold to red to black.
It glows of death and destruction.
Have mercy, God of Wind and Calm.
In anger and delight, in sorrow and pain,
we ask your comfort and presence.

(C) A A Koh-Butler, 2020

 


Homeless

The house is gone –
the threshold over which
we welcomed and set forth…
has disappeared into memory.

The safety of our bedroom,
where we cosy-ed up together…
is remembered in the comfort touch.
Our resting place must be each other’s hearts.

 The gifts given and received,
signs of stories shared from across generations and divides,
are crisped beyond recognition.

The things we saved for
or planned for
or created
are gone.

 We are homeless.

yet – we pray the courage to rebuild a home…
perhaps in that place, perhaps not…
in some ways, it matter not.
Our home must be carried in our souls now.
Home is no longer fixed and secure.

We have become nomads,
but finding a core, built of survival.
We enter a new era – a time to make home
in spirit and in truth.
It is not courage that drives us forth.
It is hope for renewal,
hope that follows the shoots of green, only seen
springing forth
from destruction and desolation.

At any other time, new shoots would
camouflage themselves beyond our reckoning.
Not now.
Now we are exposed.
Now we are seen in all our vulnerability.

We pray for courage
to face each next step.
We pray for comfort
in the face of loss and shock.
We pray for shelter
from the memories
and the fear of an uncertain future.
We pray for provision
in abundance.
We give thanks for those who care.
We give thanks for those who defend.
We give thanks for life.

Amen

 (C) A A Koh-Butler, 2020

 


 Droplets

Droplets of rain would be heaven sent
If only they would come
Soon…

We have become so accustomed to the haze of thick smoke
It becomes difficult to recognise cloud when it is there.

Are these droplets of rain
or cold ash falling?

For sure, the water seems to collect ash as it falls,
pulling downward the evidence of attack.

After what was known as ‘ember attack’ it is strange,
perhaps,
to call the ash and rain an attack,
but that is how I perceive it.

The droplets attack our senses,
they seek to goad the patient survivor
into some form of hysterical celebration.

We pray to the One who sits behind the many names of God:
O Bringer of Destruction, bring forth life!
Send your gentle rains from Heaven upon those of us beneath.

Grant us a soaking, cleansing shower.
Allow us to wash in your tears.
For our tears already flow at the corruption of the world.

Let yours heal ours.
You are our only hope,
and we long to receive your mercy.

Amen

 

(C) A A Koh-Butler, 2020

More prayers from Rev. Dr Amelia Koh-Butler's Fire Season Resources are available on her blog, Hyphenated Faith.

 


Prayer Resources in the Wake of Bushfires
Source:
The Still Circle written by Rev. Brendan Byrne, originally created for Black Saturday Bushfires February 2009

    1.   Introduction In the Book of Psalms, the word selah marks a period of reflection; it is a call to pause, to stop and listen. In the wake of the terrible bushfires that have inflicted such deep wounds upon so many, we gather to pause and listen: to our grief, to our anger, to our shock, to our despair. We gather to minister to one another, to be present to each person and to our community. We gather to give ourselves permission and space, in our anguish and distress, to cry out to God. As I share this time of prayer with you, I will occasionally proclaim: selah. We will use this time to stop and listen, to pause and reflect.

 

    1. .  Prayer of Lamentation Lord God: In the face of tragedy and suffering, we stand mute with grief and pain; we are shocked and terrified into silence by the randomness of fate. Numb with horror and fear, scarred by the unfairness of our tragedy, in silent anguish we cry to you: Lord, where were you in our suffering? Where were you amid the flames, amid the smoke and heat and terror? Where were you when we were consumed, when we cried out to be saved? Where were you when we desired to live, when we sought to escape from death? Where were you when we wept and prayed for loved ones, hoping they had survived? In our agony and distress, we cry to you: Lord, where were you in our suffering? Where were you when we received the dreaded news, when our hearts were broken by grief? Was your comfort mute in the face of our loss? Was your Word silent before our helplessness? Was your strength insufficient to protect us from harm? Assailed by doubts and questions and fears, we cry out: Lord, where were you in our suffering? Selah.

 

    1. . Prayer of Adoration Lord God: Dying on the Cross, your Son cried out: “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” We stand now in the shadow of the Cross, which spans time and generations; we stand at the foot of the Cross of suffering, witnesses to love we cannot comprehend; we stand redeemed by the Cross, by love that pours out in self-giving. In the shadow of death, in the Place of the Skull, we are brought to life everlasting. For you abdicated power and might, you gave up glory and honour; into our dishonour you placed yourself, into our brokenness you entered. Christ our Lord, Word made flesh, Son of the Most High, Son of Man; in your agony and despair you cried out to God, and captured our grief and sorrow. Lord, within the arc of Christ’s outstretched arms, you encompass death and embrace horror; all pain, all loss, all grief, all death, all suffering is contained in you, and in your Son, our Saviour. For in love the Father gave the Son to us; in love the Son gave himself for us; in love your Spirit gives to us still. Selah.

 

    1.   Prayer of Thanksgiving  (This section is adapted from the “After the Bushfire” prayer resources provided by the Vic/Tas Synod, Uniting Church in Australia) Lord God: Where were you in our suffering? When we cried out to you, did you answer? When we wept did you comfort us? When we prayed, did you respond? We saw your presence, Lord, in the bravery of those who fought the raging fires; we witnessed your solidarity in the selflessness of those who risked themselves to save others. We saw you in those who opened their homes and provided shelter and safe haven; we saw you in those who saved their neighbours’ homes, while their own were consumed by fire. We heard your word of comfort in the counsellors and chaplains who allowed us to give voice to our pain; we heard your answer to our prayers in the volunteers who provided meals and gave us clothes. We heard your response to our anguish in the heart-wrenching generosity of the nation; we heard your answer in the love that flowed from strangers we’ll never know. Lord, we have felt your strength upholding us in all the shoulders that were available for our tears; we have felt your comfort in the arms that held us when overcome with grief; we felt your comfort in the response that told us we do not stand alone; we felt your comfort in the humanity that rose up to our aid. And Lord – we saw and sensed your presence in every fallen form, in every place where we were laid low, as you were laid low in your tomb. And we saw and sensed your presence in every grieving, stricken face, as you yourself grieved for Lazarus and lamented for Jerusalem. Lord, in our pain and in our suffering, there was not one place where you were not to be found, or heard, or sensed. Selah.

 

    1.   Prayers of the People Heavenly Father: In the midst of tragedy, we have felt your comfort for the bereaved and your strength for those who suffer: let now the prayers of your children who are in despair rise to you. We lift up to you the people of (insert place names) and all the places where wild fire has taken its toll. For those who have lost loved ones, grant your peace. From our own congregation we name (insert family names) families in their bereavement; and we offer to you in prayer the names of those whom we mourn in the silence of our hearts. For those who have lost homes, property, livelihood and livestock, grant your resilience; for those who are homeless and fearful for the future, grant your safekeeping; for those suffering terrible burns, grant your healing; for those whose lives have been shattered, grant your strength; for those who have lost everything, grant that we may be their hope. God of wisdom and strength, gracious and ever faithful, who through your Son knows what it is to be fully human, weep with us, reach out to us, befriend us, surround us with your love. Begin a gentle healing, hold us safe and nurture us; grant that we may emerge slowly to new and renewed life in the palm of your healing hands, in the re-creating power of your grace. Each time we look at a fiery sunset, may your Holy Spirit gently touch our tears with peace, until once again we see the sunset for its pure beauty, and the glory of your creation. Selah. In the name of Christ your Son, our Saviour, we pray.

Amen

 


 

SONGS

 

Comfort Comfort, All My People

Source: Robin Mann, fresh words for Comfort Comfort in the wake of Australia's bush-fires.

 Comfort, comfort all my people
with the comfort of my word.
Speak it tender to my people:
"All your sins are taken away."

 

    1. Though our land is burned and blackened,
      rooves & walls beyond repair
      Animals are lost or homeless
      comfort, comfort! Volunteers throughout the country
      serving, weary, giving all
      helping strangers, friends & neighbours
      comfort, comfort!

 

    1. Though our houses have been taken
      memories, treasures lost & gone
      one destroyed but one is standing
      comfort, comfort! Still so much has been defended
      next-door-heroes risk their lives
      every deed will be remembered
      comfort, comfort!

Words & Music © 2020 Robin Mann
(These words and the music free of charge
in the wake of Australia’s 2019-2020 bushfires
)

 


Memorial Hymn For Australian People
In The Aftermath Of The Bushfires 2009

 Source: Shirley Erena Murray

Now thank we all our God
for lives beloved and cherished, the brave who faced the flames, the young and old who perished,

for those who fight the fires that sear our country's soul, for all who give relief
to comfort and make whole.

No tears can stem this grief through outback, town or city, yet as disaster strikes,
we share a common pity,

where hearts and hands can help to build or recreate,
our nation stands as one
to mourn our people's fate.

Our lives are held in trust, O God of our believing,
and we who still are spared, owe duty to the grieving,

for everyone is kin
when all can feel this pain, as families are gone
and shattered ones remain.

Now thank we all our God
for courage meeting danger, when selfless spirits fight
for mate or helpless stranger,

when wind and bushfire flare and terror grips our faith, compassion keeps us strong, through tragedy and death.

 

TUNE: Nun Danket Alle Gott

 © Shirley Erena Murray

 

Note: Shirley wrote this hymn on 12 February 2009, in response to the Victorian bushfire disaster. She chose the theme and tune of “Now thank we all our God” because Martin Rinkart wrote his much-loved hymn after ministering to people dying from the plague in Saxony in the 17th century, and after conducting funerals for around 5000 plague victims, including his wife. Shirley gives free permission for its use throughout Australia.

 


We Do Not Know How to Count the Cost

 

Source: Alexander Scutt,
Note: This was my first attempt at a serious hymn text written in response to the Black Saturday Fires in Victoria in February 2009. It seems remarkably apposite for the first day of 2020. Please feel free to use it as you see fit, in accordance with the notes below the text.

    1. We know not how to count the cost
      when fire strikes wild with fright’ning speed;
      nor how, when homes and lives are lost,
      to reach another in their need. We only know our wide brown land
      shows beauty, terror, intertwined.
      O God, through Christ, show us your face
      In ashes, dust, and hope combined.

 

    1. When Moses saw the fire and flame,
      the bush was burning unconsumed ‑
      he heard the voice of God which came
      to call him on to holy ground. May we, O God, now hear your voice
      and stand, with answers yet unfound,
      to speak your words of hope to all
      and find, in ashes, holy ground.

 

    1. With cloud and fire, O God, you led
      your people out through paths unknown,
      and here, where hope hangs by a thread,
      we seek and claim that for our own. God, let your Spirit lead us now,
      in Jesus Christ, to find again
      through arms outstretched upon the cross,
      new hope amidst the fires of pain.

© Alexander Scutt, February 2009
Tune: Ye Banks and Braes of Bonny Doon

 

Words can be reproduced under CCLI or LicenSing.
Suggested version of the tune is © WGRG and can be reproduced under LicenSing
 

 


 LITURGIES

Bushfire Sunday, worshipping with the bush on fire
Source:
Season of Creation, scroll down to New Optional Liturgies, includes a Eucharistic setting

 After the Fire, Ash Wednesday Commemorative Service
Source:
Uniting Church Assembly