It was my honor today to write and deliver this prayer at a Memorial Service/Action sponsored by the recently (re)created Chicago Union for the Homeless. The Winter Solstice (today) has been designated Homeless Person’s Memorial Day to remember those who have died homeless in the past year.
Following the service at Chicago’s Thompson Center, protesters carried a symbolic casket in a silent march in honor of the deceased. At City Hall, representatives from the Homeless Union presented a petition demanding immediate housing and adequate mental and physical health care for all homeless persons in the Chicago and Cook County.
This new liturgy is based on the traditional Jewish memorial prayer, El Male Rachamim:.
El male rachamim shochen bam’romim
ha’metzei menucha nechonah
tachat kanfei ha’shechinah.
God filled with compassion,
whose loving presence ever surrounds us
bring perfect rest to all who have died unhoused
those who have died on the streets, in tent cities
public parks and under viaducts.
Protect these precious souls
with the shelter they were denied in their lifetimes
gather them under the softness of your wings
show them love, bring them home.
Remind us that no one
is forgotten in your sight
that all are welcome at your table
that each and every one of their lives
is a story of sacred worth and meaning
that can never be lost.
May the memories of their lives
shine forth like the brilliance
of the skies above
as we rededicate ourselves
to their memories now.
Turn our grief and anger into resolve
fill us with strength and will and purpose
that we may once and for all
end this endless night.
Never let us forget
our sacred responsibility
to ensure that all are housed
and clothed and fed;
let us never stop fighting
for the basic essential dignity
of every living, breathing soul.
Ba’al ha’rachamim tastireihem
b’seter kanfecha le’olamim.
Source of all compassion,
inspire us to extend your shelter
across this land and throughout the world
that all may know the blessings
of safety and security now and forever.
V’nomar, and let us say,