Feeling Gross This Election? Churches Offering Healing Vigils

The election vigils are a first for many churches.

Some observers of this divisive election are probably thinking that all we have left to do now is pray. Thankfully, several churches and faith organizations have planned prayers and vigils tonight and tomorrow — not necessarily to pray for your favorite candidate to win (though that might be an option at some of them) — but for whatever kind of unity and healing we can achieve at this point.

This evening at 7 p.m., Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral is hosting a nonpartisan, interfaith vigil where Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders will lead prayers “for those in elective office, for those with whom we disagree, and for healing in our nation,” according to Saint Marks’s website.

Over the years, Saint Mark’s has held vigils after 9/11, the Newtown and Orlando shootings and other tragedies, but according to Liz Bartenstein, spokesperson for Saint Mark’s, this year’s election prayer vigil is a first. It came out of a realization among the clergy that people were especially anxious and concerned about the election, Bartenstein says, and that perhaps such an event would be of interest to people outside the Saint Mark’s community.

When asked if the interfaith nature of the event had anything to do with this election and its religiously divisive rhetoric, Bartenstein says it was more about “making sure that this was something that felt open to the whole community….It didn’t seem at the time that there was anything like this happening anywhere else, at least not on this scale.”

Further south, the Columbia City Church of Hope is holding an Election Day prayer from noon to 1 p.m. “We live in a world that naturally divides you from me and us from other,” says the event page. “On November 8th, we have the opportunity to impact change through our votes and our prayers.”

If you’re up in the Edmonds, Lynnwood or Mountlake Terrace area on election night and looking for something to soothe the night’s anxiety, St. Hilda St. Patrick Episcopal Church is holding a prayer vigil “to offer thanksgiving for the abundance of our common life, pray for the safety and security of our country, and offer prayers for reconciliation and healing.”

Cynthia Espeseth, Vicar at St. Hilda St. Patrick, says that like Saint Mark’s, this is the first time the church has held an election vigil. It came about after one of the parishioners was concerned about this election’s lack of civil discourse and hate.

“These are prayers for our nation,” she said, noting that most of them will simply be taken from the church’s Book of Common Prayer. “There’s nothing partisan about it — it’s prayers for hope and civil discourse and respect for the dignity of every human being.”

The event will be nonpartisan and though it will use Christian language, it’s open to anyone of any faith, or anyone who just wants a place to be quiet and listen to poems by Maya Angelou and Wendell Berry, Espeseth says.

Espeseth says she understands the anxiety that the election has caused. She remembers listening to the third presidential debate while she was driving, and finding herself getting so angry and anxious listening to the two candidates yell at other that she started yelling at other drivers.

“For us Christians the best thing to do when that happens is to pray. Just stop, just center yourself in prayer, focus on something not you and move on.”

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