Litany In Recognition of the Prophetic Ministry of Owen Lovejoy

All: Oh God, in troubled times Owen Lovejoy heard your word.

One: After Owen's father, Daniel, hanged himself, his brother Elijah entreated him to kneel before their father's grave and be at peace with God. Later, as a pastor, he counseled St. Paul's advice to instruct gently "those who oppose themselves."

All: Oh God, in troubled times he heard your word.

One: After Elijah was murdered while defending his antislavery press, he did not seek revenge. Instead he encouraged leaders in the community to repent "before that Power that pardons the penitent and still maintains the majesty of law" and vowed "never to forsake the cause for which his brother's blood was sprinkled."

 

All: Oh God, in troubled times he heard your word.

One: When Owen's parishioners in the Hampshire Colony Congregational Church of Princeton, Illinois, welcomed freedom seekers, he joined their efforts, and was brought before the District Judge for harbouring runaway slaves. He preached that in a republic the citizens are sovereigns who should follow King David's words; "they that rule must rule justly in the fear of God" guided by "whatever the Bible, reason, justice and humanity requires."

All: Oh God, in troubled times he heard your word.

One: When maligned as a slave stealer and threatened with death at a political rally, he walked to the front and explained, "My Bible tells me to feed the hungry and clothe the naked . . . When a poor wanderer comes to my door, hungry and asking for bread, in tattered garments asking for clothing, I do not stop to institute an investigation . . . it's enough for me to know that he or she is a fellow creature in need of food, clothing and shelter."

All: Oh God, in troubled times he heard your word.

One: When slavery was allowed to expand and people were outraged, Owen was ready to lead the Illinois antislavery movement claiming that "No power on earth has the right to make a man a slave . . . God made that man as he made you and me in his own image and the sanction of his authority is around him."

All: Oh God, in troubled times he heard your word.

One: When the Supreme Court declared Negroes as property with "no rights which the white man was bound to respect," Owen proclaimed in the halls of Congress "and all this on the false, atrocious impious argument that human beings are property . . . the Supreme Being never intended human beings should be property." In public meetings he affirmed "Christ was a Negro-equality man."

All: Oh God, in troubled times he heard your word.

One: When President Lincoln's offer to buy freedom for slaves was rejected, he confided in Owen whom he trusted. They reasoned together, asking if the North and South both suffered because both ignored the Divine Will "to proclaim liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof."

All: Oh God, in troubled times he heard your word.

One: When things were going badly before the Civil War, Owen Lovejoy invited the people to go "build a large organ on the shelving sides of the Rocky Mountains, and let the angel of Liberty strike the keys and chant forth that sublime and grand old anthem of Universal Freedom: and then, as its notes roll over the land, solemn and majestic in God's name," we shall keep step to that divine symphony.

All: Oh God, in troubled times, may we hear your word and step to your tune.