For Christian faith communities praying with Apache Stronghold
A word about the spiritual significance of ashes: Ashes are a symbol in the Judeo-Christian tradition of lament, repentance and humility. In the Jewish and Christian scriptures, people clothed themselves with sackcloth and lamented with ashes to represent penitent spirits and a desire for change. On Ash Wednesday, many Christians receive ashes on their foreheads with the sign of the cross and the words, “Repent and believe in the gospel,” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Apache Stronghold leaders have also used ashes in prayer to protect against spiritual forces that could harm them in the struggle to protect Oak Flat. We ask that people pray in the faith tradition/ lineage they come from, and adapt this prayer written for Christian communities accordingly.
Preparation ahead of time: Prepare some ashes, either left over from Ash Wednesday (if you come from a Christian tradition that observes Lent in this way), or perhaps burn some dried herbs sustainably harvested. Mix with a bit of oil.
Leader: On this fourth Sunday of Lent, we lift up prayers for the Apache Stronghold, who are dedicating this day to prayer in preparation for their court hearing on Tuesday the 21st [share briefly about the hearing if people are not yet aware].
These ashes, like the ashes applied on Ash Wednesday, remind us that we are all made from dust, from the soil. There will be an opportunity to share and receive ashes to follow.
Join me in prayer and confession:
Leader: Creator of life, you shaped us from the dust, from the fertile earth, with loving tenderness. We lift up the Apache people you formed from the soil of Oak Flat, sacred land for many Indigenous peoples of the southwest, and we thank you for their courage and leadership on behalf of sacred land and water. We thank you that they are people who remember the earth, from where they come.
All: We remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.
Leader: Jesus, we confess that as a Church, we have often forgotten your teachings. We have forgotten that we cannot “store up our treasures on Earth, where moth and rust destroy” (. We have forgotten how difficult it is for the rich to enter your kingdom with their heavy burdens. We have forgotten that one day, we shall return to the earth and to God’s eternal love, carrying nothing with us from this world.
All: We remember that we are earth, and to earth we shall return.
Leader: Spirit of God, we lament with sorrowful hearts that we’ve been mired in a system that promises progress and salvation to a few, but requires the sacrifice of the many. We call on you who cleanses us in baptism with water to renew and restore us to our role as your image bearers. Enliven us to move in one spirit with the Apache and all who protect your sacred land and waters.
All: We remember that we are water, and to water we shall return.
Leader: Holy One, one God known by many names, we join our prayers with our Apache siblings. May we repent from the ways of colonization and extractive greed that destroys the earth. We call on your power and your kin-dom of justice, peace and nonviolence to flourish on earth as in heaven!
All: We remember that we are one in Spirit, and to Spirit we shall return.
Leader: If you would like to receive ashes, I invite you to come forward. We will be tracing a circle on your forehead or hand as a reminder of the circle of unity in the Spirit and in prayer that Apache Stronghold are calling us to. May these ashes be a reminder of our earthiness, and a sign of repentance from all that would divide us from our interconnectedness with earth and our neighbors. May these ashes also remind us to pray throughout today for the protection of Oak Flat.
Prayer written by Katerina Gea, pastor of Wild Church and Organizer of the Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery