On November 19, 2018, Streams of Justice hosted a vigil and prayer night for Trans Day of Remembrance, an annual day honouring the lives of all those lost to anti-trans violence. The liturgy we wrote for the service includes words from trans theologians, pastors and writers, and is written for a group that includes trans and cis readers and attendees. We share it in the hope that others may likewise find ways to collectively articulate the sacred concern for justice, liberation, and restoration of all people and all bodies. “Our work is unfinished until all of us are free.”
Lighting of the Christ Candle
Reader 1: We begin by lighting the Christ candle, welcoming the presence of an embodied Creator in our midst. We also shroud the communion elements, recognizing that Christ died at the hands of state-enacted violence, and his body was placed in a tomb. In trans Latinx theologian Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza’s words, we live in Holy Saturday, and have yet to see the full transformation and liberation. We recognize that we, as trans people, are crucified people.
Please follow along with the liturgy in the booklet provided.
Reader 1: As we begin, we acknowledge that we gather on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh people. Our place on this land, and this service, are deeply intertwined. As we gather together here, we sit with the knowledge that the same colonial powers that took this land continue to enact violence against Indigenous people, especially those who are trans and Two-Spirit. We enter this service acknowledging our complicity with this violence, and thus, in a posture of contemplation and deep repentance.
Creator God, forgive us for the ways we let colonial violence go unchallenged.
All: Creator God, forgive us.
Orientation & Opening
Reader 2: Tonight, we mourn the lives lost, and the disproportionate systemic and interpersonal violence against trans people, especially trans women of colour. We lament all violence done to trans people on these territories and all over the world, and the systems and structures that degrade, dehumanize, incarcerate, criminalize, and kill with impunity.
In this particular place and at this particular time, we grieve the suicide rates of queer and trans youth, the destructive dogma of the West Coast Accord and anti-SOGI ideology. We are full of rage and sadness for the ways your character has been distorted, and your scriptures weaponized against your trans children – who are unconditionally and completely beloved.
Creator God, heal us from indifference and move us to Christ-like solidarity, extending welcome and care to the margins.
All: Creator God, heal us.
Reader 3: Tonight, we also bring our grief for the ways our trans siblings have been excluded and ostracized from the church, from congregations and communities, and disallowed from flourishing as their full selves and sharing their good gifts. We lament the complicity of the church in anti-trans violence and exclusion. We hold the heaviness of grief for spaces such as this, Grandview Calvary Baptist Church, which has yet to see full affirmation for queer and trans people. We yearn to see your world restored and all people, all identities, all bodies celebrated as sacred and whole.
Creator God, transform our thinking, our language, our churches, and our communities so we may fully recognize all people as your children.
All: Creator God, transform us.
From Psalm 139
O Lord, You have searched me and you know me
You knew my soul,
and my bones were not hidden from you :
when I was formed in secret,
and woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my limbs when they were yet imperfect :
and in your book were all my members written;
How deep are your thoughts to me, O God :
and how great is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they are more in number than the sand :
were I to come to the end, I would still be with you.
from James 2
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Prayer for Transgender Day of Remembrance
by Rev. Malcolm Himschoot, United Church of Christ
How long, O God?
How long will transgender people suffer shame and loss because of who we are?
How long must we bear pain in our souls, and have sorrow in our hearts all day long?
How long shall we have enemies who persecute us, ridicule us, and gloat over us?
(adapted from Psalm 10)
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I have prevailed.”
(from Psalm 13)
Why do you stand far off, hiding yourself in times of trouble?
In fear the violent attack the vulnerable –
Let them be caught in the schemes their hearts have devised.
In confusion and disturbance the oppressors say,
“There is no God who cares for the meek –
No God will find me out.”
Their mouths are filled with cursing and deceit and oppression
They sit in ambush
In stealth they murder the innocent.
The helpless fall by their might.
They think: “God has forgotten the transgender women, trans people of colour, non-binary people, trans children and youth, the gender-queer and intersex – God has hidden God’s face.”
Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand
Do not forget the oppressed.
(from Psalm 10)
Why do murderers rage, and fearful people plot in vain?
Those in power, and those who long for power, conspire
Against the precious anointed of the Lord.
In heaven God laughs at their presumption.
I will tell of the decree of the Living, Mighty God
Who said to me, “You are my child. Today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the earth itself your inheritance.”
(from Psalm 2)
Reading of Names
Reader 1: As part of this evening’s vigil for those who have been lost to anti-trans violence, we will be reading the names of those killed in 2018 to grieve their loss and honour their memory. We’ll read one name each, in a circle, until all the names have been read. After you have read a name for the first time, please light a candle and place it on the altar.
Standing Against the Headwind of Hatred:
A Prayer of Cisgender Confession and Commitment
by Tammerie Day
We rise each day into a world that fits
our natures, our understandings, our assumptions.
The clay of our bodies and faces
conform to our spirits:
We are learning it is not so for all of us.
Some of us are born of a wilder imagination.
We are learning new language and new images
for those Spirit is coloring outside our lines:
transgender, intersex, gender-variant.
We confess that we have slumbered
while members of our family are slaughtered.
The headwind of hatred batters
bodies and minds and spirits:
the diverse beauties that continue to arise.
We commit to standing against this headwind of hate,
a bulwark to end the battering.
We commit to seeing the diverse beauty, all around us,
every gendered and gender-free expression, every form of love.
We commit to loving difference, and becoming.
We commit to learning the new language(s)
that enable our beloveds to exist, and thrive.
Love, make us bold, to live our own lives fully and abundantly.
Love, give us passion, to work for everyone’s full abundance.
Love, gather us together, that no one you have created
is not seen
is not allowed to live
is ever lost to the hurricane of hate again.
Adapted from “Advent 1: What We’re Waiting For,” Sermon by Mary Ann Saunders
Reader 1: We come now to the communion table, remembering that God came to us in a human body: messy, fragile, unpredictable, infinite God embodied in finite flesh. We are reminded, in Nadia Bolz-Weber’s words, that “God slipped into human skin because God saves us in our bodies, not from our bodies.”
Reader 2: Here, we hold all bodies as sacred: queer and trans bodies, old or young bodies; tattooed, pierced, and scarred bodies; currently abled bodies or bodies living with disability; menstruating or pregnant or chestfeeding bodies; large bodies or small bodies; growing or aging bodies. We all live in transformed and transforming bodies, bodies which may sometimes feel like they’re ours and at other times feel strange and unfamiliar. And where these bodies are, there God is. “We are the clay, and you, O God, are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)
Reader 3: On the night Jesus was betrayed, he was with his friends sharing a meal. He took bread and broke it, saying, this is my body, broken for your body. In the same way, He took the cup and after giving thanks, he blessed it, saying, this is my blood, shed for your blood.
You’re invited to come and be given a piece of bread, to dip into the cup. All are welcome to take part in this meal. The bread is gluten free.
A Prayer Towards Trans Cosmology
Adapted from “And God Hovered Over the Face of the Deep: Transgressing Gender,” Sermon by Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza
God, before gender and before language,
You created us, in neplanta*, made of dust:
hovering over the surface of the deep,
being and becoming.
From dust, like the deep, primordial:
You shaped earth-creatures with divine hands,
Animated us with holy breath.
Create in us a posture of deep welcome,
an imagination beyond colonial and binary logic.
Unbind us from systems and theologies that harm.
May we commit to turning inward as much as turning outward.
Let our inner lives align with just social practices,
and the spaces we inhabit be welcome to all.
Help us embrace the both/and of your creation,
and to remember who you have made us to be:
especially those of us whose embodiment is threatened.
Energize us with the prophetic edge of your Spirit.
Our work remains unfinished until all of us are free.
Ashé, Amen, Blessed be.
*Neplanta is a Nahuatl (Aztec language) term connoting “in between,” “borderlands,” or a reference to the space of “the middle,” employed in postcolonial scholarship and resistance strategies of survival
Reader 3: We come now to our closing benediction. Before we read it, we’d like to invite you to take an icon of Marsha P Johnson on your way out and keep it somewhere close as a visible reminder of tonight. These can be found on the counter where entered. There is a prayer written on the back, inspired by the prayer of St. Francis and Kenji Kuramitsu’s Book of Uncommon Prayer: Collects for the Black Lives Movement and Beyond.
If you are trans, or would like to gift a trans person in your life, you’re invited to take a flower. After the benediction, we ask that you blow out your candle and leave in silence. If you would like to receive prayer or need support, please feel free to approach one of the readers tonight. We have also included the number for Trans Lifeline Canada in your booklet. (1-877-330-6366)
An Imprecatory Prayer to the Transestors
by Sophia Zarders
To The Trans Ancestors & Elders who have guided us here:
We honour your legacy with new celebrations.
May our bodies persist, let them shine whole & well.
May our minds calibrate to the call of the universe.
Let our protest songs transfigure to peace hymns.
Let our cultural knowledge produce nourishment.
May our homes bustle warm with abundant love.
May our communities flourish despite borders.
Let our love quake open any lingering shackle.
Let our joy obliterate any festering contempt.
As we bind each other closer,
we manifest futures more possible.