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In times of crisis or disaster in the community, nation, or world—Selected worship resources from The New Manual of Worship

April 6, 2020

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Judson Press for permission to republish the following content from “The New Manual of Worship” for use by churches when livestreaming their services. We hope it will be useful to those using online platforms to gather their congregations in new ways amid the coronavirus pandemic.


In order to be fully present and pastoral in the lives of our people, ministers and worship planners/leaders need to be ready to make changes in our plans when there is a disaster or tragedy in our midst. Given the instantaneous nature of news from the media, such calamities are brought to our attention regularly. Including these concerns during prayer time in worship may be sufficient for some situations. But in other cases, we must drop “business as usual” and focus on providing comfort and hope, recognizing that God is there even in the midst of fire, flood, storm, earthquake, and human-caused catastrophe.

Scriptures, Prayers, and Readings

Awake! Why are you sleeping, O God? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!

Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?

For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground.

Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!

Let not the downtrodden turn back in shame; let the poor and needy praise your name.

Arise, O God, defend your cause; remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!

Do not forget the clamor of your foes, the uproar of those who rise against you, which goes up continually!

But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.

Let us hear what God will speak, for peace will be spoken to the people; but let them not turn back to folly.

Surely salvation is near to those who hold the Holy One in awe, that glory may dwell in our land.

(All:) Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

From Psalms 44, 74, 79, 80, 85

God, how long will I call for help and you not listen?

I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you don’t deliver us.
Why do you show me injustice and look at anguish
so that devastation and violence are before me?
There is strife, and conflict abounds. The law is ineffective.
Justice does not endure
because the wicked surround the righteous.
Justice becomes warped.   

– Habakkuk 1:2-4 (CEB)


There is a wound in the heart of the world.
Scarred over, we tread upon that injury in all that we do.
Every blessing and every curse made upon the wounded
   heart of the world.
I cannot say how the wound came to be, by what illness
    or act of violence.
I cannot say how the healing happens, by what medicine or
    act of caring and grace.
Yet, I know this wound. I know its edges. I know its depths.
I know that this same heart pours blessing upon blessing
    upon the earth and all the earth’s
inhabitants. It is the heart of the world. It is resilient.           

– Tripp Hudgins


Sometimes events in the world around us call us not only to mourning, but also to questioning, and in the midst of the questioning, to new attitude and action. Let us seek a way forward in this time and place as we lay before God our confession.

God of all peoples, we confess all the times when we divided the world into “us” and “them.” We confess the times when we thought that we were somehow, automatically, better than others. We confess the times when we tried to find a reason to distance ourselves from “those people.” We confess the times when we snuffed out our lights; kept our salt to ourselves; spoke without thinking of the hurt we might cause; let the hate-filled remark go unchallenged; missed an opportunity to support the struggling; and turned our back on your call to radical love. Forgive us; draw us into one human community; unite us as your beloved children. Amen.

The Good News is this and simply this: God is love. God calls us to love.

God loves the unloved. God loves even the unloving.

Let us live in and into this love.        

– Beth W. Johnston


O Sabbath rest of Galilee!
O calm of hills above, where Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity interpreted by love.
Drop thy still dews of quietness till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess the beauty of thy peace.    

– John Greenleaf Whittier


Serene Son of God, whose will subdued the troubled waters and laid to rest the fears of those disturbed, permit the majesty of your might to master the turbulence of our hearts. May your power of calm soothe us. For our doubts may we have faith and for disquietude perfect trust in you, whose control governs all things, world without end. Amen.    

– J. Alfred Smith Sr.


Litany of Lament

Give ear to my prayer, O God; do not hide yourself from my supplication. Attend to me, and answer me; I am troubled in my complaint. I am distraught by the noise of the enemy, because of the clamor of the wicked. For they bring trouble upon me, and in anger they cherish enmity against me. (Silence)     

– Psalm 55:1-8


Naming Oppressions and Injustice

In these moments ahead you are invited to call aloud specific oppressions and injustices as they exist in our world today. Where and how is God most needed in our world, in our cities, in our families, in our lives? (Those gathered may express their concerns.)

Sung Response: I need thee, O I need thee; every hour I need thee; O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee.

Lament (unison)

My heart is in anguish within me, the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. (Silence)

Naming Our Fears

When we are honest with ourselves, with one another, and with God, there is much in life that fills us with fear. In these moments ahead, you are invited to give voice to those fears in the confidence that the God who hears you and listens to you, is also the God who frees you from all fear. From what do you wish you could hide or flee? (Those gathered may express their concerns.)

Sung Response: I need thee, O I need thee; every hour I need thee; O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee.

Lament (unison)

And I say, “O, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; truly, I would flee far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find shelter for myself from the raging wind and tempest.”  

– Jennifer W. Davidson


Hymns in Times of Crisis

The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada offers an excellent resource, “Hymns in Times of Crisis,” noting: “When tragedy strikes, we often find ourselves at a loss for words to express our sorrow, rage, and helplessness. When a community needs to gather, congregational song can be a powerful force to help us express what we cannot articulate ourselves. It can be a healing, unifying force.”

This material is available at no cost at The Hymn Society.  

Additional Suggested Hymns and Songs
(see or other sources as noted)

As We, Your People, Gather (Howard Maple)
Be Not Afraid (Robert J. Dufford, SJ)
Be Still My Soul (Kathrina von Schlegel)
By Gracious Powers (Fred Pratt Green)
God, Our Help and Constant Refuge (Fred Anderson)
God, Stir Compassion in Our Hearts (Barbara Hamm, Hope Publishing Company and Hope Hymns Online)
How Firm a Foundation (Rippon’s Selection of Hymns)
How Long, O Lord, Will You Forget (Barbara Woollett)
We Walk by Faith and Not by Sight (Henry Alford)
When Aimless Violence Takes Those We Love (Joy F. Patterson) 

Taken from The New Manual of Worship by Nancy Hall. Copyright ©2018 by Judson Press. Used by permission of Judson Press, 800-4-JUDSON, Available as a physical book or epub.


The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

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