Father’s Day is… interesting. It is relationally difficult, like most holidays involving all of us less-than-perfect people in our less-than-perfect families, but Father’s Day puts all of the emphasis on a specific relationship (or lack of). For some of us, it’s a perfectly lovely holiday, but for some of us, it’s a perfectly terrible holiday. And it’s a holiday that churches can acknowledge in a perfectly lovely way or a perfectly terrible way.
Just as I’m sure every woman has a particular horror story to share about a Mother’s Day church service, every man has a horror story about a Father’s Day church service. I wrote about Mother’s Day already, which is the more difficult holiday for me, I’m sure for some, Father’s Day is the more difficult holiday. I’ve written a little about the men who have shared their stories of the loss of their fathers with me in Ruth and Naomi: How to fish without Dad. Grieving the loss of a father or child is only part of what makes Father’s Day difficult. Sometimes the world makes it difficult for men to express feelings which sometimes manifests as toxic masculinity. Gender bias effects everyone.
If you have seen the movie, “On the Basis of Sex” you may remember that the case that was RBG’s big break through involved a man who was denied a tax deduction for the nursing care of his mother. “Ruth sees in this case an opportunity to begin to challenge the many laws enacted over the years that assume that men will work to provide for the family, and women will stay home and take care of the husband and children. She believes that if she could set a precedent ruling that a man was unfairly discriminated against on the basis of sex, that precedent could be cited in cases challenging laws that discriminate against women”… you can read the rest on Wikipedia or google it on your own.
Father’s Day should perhaps be a day to remind us that feminism, the work of equality for everyone regardless of gender, must be inclusive in every way. Feminism is often criticized (as it should be) for being a cis-gendered white woman’s cause. So, if that previous sentence describes you as well as it describes me, we should be listening to other voices and what their stories of gender discrimination. And perhaps on Father’s Day, we should remember that men are harmed by gender bias as well.
Below is a litany that I’ve adapted from the one I borrowed for Mother’s Day. Please let me know in the comments if you have found it useful or if you have a suggested edit. You may use it or adapt it for your own worship setting. I’m planning to use it in worship for Third Presbyterian Church on Father’s Day, 2019.
Pastoral Litany for Father’s Day
Leader: On Father’s Day, let us remember that this day is marked with joy or sadness or a little of both as we pray together.
People: In our joy and sadness, we give God thanks and praise.
Leader: For grandfathers, fathers, sons, bothers, and all men who are vulnerable, worried, and frustrated, but who have been socialized to not express their true feelings,
People: We pray for peace and safety.
Leader: For relationships that are strained and no longer a source of joy,
People: We pray for healing and strength.
Leader: For fathers who have died, and fathers who have been separated from us, but who remain in our hearts and memories,
People: We pray for those that mourn and give God thanks for life eternal.
Leader: For fathers who grieve, who have lost children born or unborn, and for fathers who have been separated from children,
People: We weep with those with broken hearts.
Leader: For those who are raising children, who are supported by spouse and family, and those who are struggling to do it all on their own,
People: We pray that we may be their village, offering real help in hard times.
Leader: For those who are preparing to have emptier nests,
People: We both celebrate and mourn with you, and hope their wings are strong enough to carry them out into the world and back home to visit.
Leader: For stepfathers, navigating the pitfalls and joys of blended family life, and for those who are waiting for adoptive process to be fulfilled.
People: We pray for wisdom and patience.
Leader: For Grandfathers who are doing the hard work of raising children again, for uncles and brothers and all of those who have taken on a parenting role,
People: We pray for caregivers, offering our care for them too.
Leader: For those who are waiting and sometimes struggling with the biological process to bring new life,
People: We wait eagerly with you.
Leader: For men who do not have children, but instead teach, guide, and care for, the children of others,
People: We give God thanks and praise.
Leader: For the fathers, brothers, sons, in our midst and around the world. For those who face discrimination on the basis of their assigned gender or gender identity. For men who are struggling silently. For men who are brave enough to speak out. For men who are compassionate. For men who listen to the afflicted. For Dad, in their varied forms,
People: We give God thanks and praise.
1 thought on “Father’s Day 2019”
Got your most recent blog post in my email and started reading older posts–just wanted to say that I liked this liturgy so much after reading it in the service that I shared it on Facebook and got a lot of appreciation there, too.
If we feel we have to bend to the cultural expectation to “do something” in church on the secular holidays of Mother’s and Father’s Days, then not only is it mete to acknowledge what parenthood (or lack thereof) looks like in the human world, we should also consider what God’s parenthood looks like. How have our ideas influenced how we think about God, and how does the Bible challenge our (ever-changing, historically shaped) notions? For myself, I’ve started replacing “Our Father” with “Oh God” or similar, to see what it does to my experience of the prayer.
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