A Litany for Our Slain Children

Editor’s note: Debbie Blue, executive minister of Love Mercy-Do Justice, suggested individuals and congregations consider using this litany in response to the death of Michael Brown and ensuing events in Ferguson, Missouri.

This litany from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference was adapted from an earlier one that was written following the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012.

A Litany for Children Slain or Traumatized By Violence

Leader: A sound is heard in Ramah, the sound of bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children. She refuses to be comforted, for they are dead.

Assembly: We pray for the families of children who have been slain by gun violence, left to die on streets with less dignity than is given to animals.

Leader: A sound is heard in every city. Communities are weeping generationally for their children. Our sons, like Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, Ezell Ford, Michael Brown and John Crawford. Our daughters, like Ayanna Jones, Miriam Carey, Malisa Williams, and Tarika Wilson.

Assembly: As people of God, we weep for the lives of all children who instead of enjoying the sweetness of innocence become victims of hate, victims of war, and victims of violence.

Leader: Now, let us rise up and interrupt these rushing waters of violence that leave children and communities wounded and paralyzed, traumatized by internal disintegration and state terror. Let us rise up and demand this nation abandon its affair with beliefs, practices and laws that are rooted in militarism, justified by racism, and propped up by systemic inequities.

Assembly: We will rise up against laws rooted in evil that have no concern for life, nor any concern for God’s love. We will rise up until justice rolls on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream.

Leader: Oh Lord, we commit ourselves to seeing all children the way that you see them. No matter their age or race, they are precious gifts made in your image, created with transformative purpose and unlimited promise.

Assembly: And for that cause, we pledge to be hedges of protection for their lives, we pledge to stand against anything that threatens their potential or promise.

All: We embody the universal spirit of Ubuntu, “I am because we are and because we are, I am.” We are all Rachel crying for the children! Therefore, we pledge to lock arms in solidarity with the families of the slain. We pledge to let our voices be heard all over this nation and the world, for we know we are called to do what is just and right.

©2014 by Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc.




  • I agree it is appropriate and timely to lament the death of our children. However I think this litany is a simplistic lament of a very complex issue. More young people of color die at the hands of people of color than by our policemen. My lament is that so many have no respect for law; justice to them seems to be that I can do whatever I want and you can’t do anything about it.
    What we need is a call for repentance before God for ourselves and for our nation, both individuals and government.
    By the way, I looked up Ubuntu on Wikipedia and it states this philosophy “asserts that society, not a transcendent being, gives human beings their humanity.” Where is that found in scripture?

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