Every year, Byron Rushing, vice-president of The Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies, shares this about the prayers our Church and people pray on Independence Day. We offer it as a wider perspective on history and as an encouragement to think more critically about the long, hard road to freedom that many in our country have faced. Rushing writes:
“July 4 lands on a Wednesday this year; I write this for those who will be commemorating Independence Day then or on Sunday, July 1.
“Let me take this opportunity to remind Episcopalians in the United States that many of us do not consider the words–“the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us”– in the Independence Day collect to be accurate. Look around your congregations and reflect if all the ancestors of the “us” got their liberty then.
“Listen to the words of the Collect (BCP, p.242) for Independence Day, July 4th
Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
“This phrase is only possible because slavery was forgotten—or the “us” was not meant to include me.
“A better and approved BCP collect for the 4th is “For the Nation” (p.258 or 207):
Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace:
Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
“Also the Canadians’ Canada Day collect (July 1) also works for us in the USA and all the other countries in which TEC is.
Almighty God, whose wisdom and whose love are over all, accept the prayers we offer for our nation. Give integrity to its citizens and wisdom to those in authority, that harmony and justice may be secured in obedience to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.