Prayers for the 80th anniversary of the #LiverpoolBlitz

Braving four seasons in one day at the service to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Liverpool Blitz in the Bombed Out Church after which our Team Parish of St Luke in the City Liverpool takes its name.
L-R: Sue Say, Church Warden, me, Lilly Nelson, Student Chaplaincy Assistant at Liverpool John Moores University & University of Liverpool.

LIVERPOOL was the most heavily bombed area of the UK outside London in the Second World War. It was bombed in four stages between August 1940 and January 1942. The most devastating period was between 1st and 7th May 1941.

On Thursday 6th May 2021, I was involved in a service of remembrance for the civilian casualties of the Liverpool Blitz. It was held in one of the most vivid symbols the bombing of the city, the outer shell of St Luke’s Church in the city centre, which was destroyed by an incendiary bomb on 6th May 1941.

The church was gutted during the firebombing, but remained standing and, in its prominent position in the city, it became a stark reminder of what Liverpool and the surrounding area had endured. It has became a garden of remembrance to commemorate the thousands of local people who died as a result of the bombing of the Liverpool City Region. Affectionately known locally as ‘The Bombed Out Church’, St Luke’s gave its name to a new Church of England parish formed in 1981 following the merger of three inner-city parishes into the Team Parish of St Luke in the City.

The Team Parish hosted the service on the 80th anniversary of the destruction of the church, to remember the lives of those who died in the Liverpool Blitz, rededicate the site as a place to commemorate the civilian casualties, and initiate the Team Parish of St Luke in the City as members of the international reconciliation movement, the Community of the Cross of Nails, which began at Coventry Cathedral after it was fire-bombed in November 1940.

 The priorities of the Community of the Cross of Nails are:

  • Healing the wounds of history
  • Learning to live with difference and celebrate diversity
  • Building a culture of peace.

With these in mind, I wrote three prayers for the service. However, since the bombed-out church has no roof, the service was cut short due to high winds, rain and hail on the day. The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Cllr Anna Rothery, was able to unveil a plaque to commemorate the re-dedication of the church in memory of the civilian casualties of the Blitz. The Very Revered John Witcomb, Dean of Coventry Cathedral, presented the Rector of St Luke in the City, Revd Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, with a Cross of Nails, a symbol of the international network of communities of reconciliation which grew from Coventry following the destruction of the old Cathedral in the Coventry Blitz in November 1940. West End singer Emma Dears concluded by singing a moving performance of Amazing Grace.

You can watch a recording of the event here. Live-stream starts around 21 :30 for 20 minutes.

A gallery of photos from the service is here.

Here are the prayers I wrote for the service, which were not used on the day due to the need to shorten the service because of the extreme weather:

God of our past, 

As we respond to your call to heal the wounds of history, we recall that Liverpool was the ‘second city of the British empire’, because of wealth earned at the expense of countless African people who were enslaved. 

We remember the millions of Irish people who came here to seek a better life when famine ravaged their land, earning the city the nickname of ‘the second capital of Ireland’. 

We remember the casualties of war, especially the civilian casualties of the Liverpool Blitz 80 years ago this week, and all who have suffered and died in conflict.  

We remember those who went to watch a football match at Heysel and Hillsborough, and never returned. 

We especially recall that the Christian community which takes its name from this church, the Team Parish of St Luke In The City, was formed in 1981, after the heart of our community was torn apart by racial tensions and riots. 

May we have the humility to learn the lessons of our history and receive the wisdom we need not to repeat its tragedies. 

Your kingdom come

ALL: Your will be done. 

God of our difference and diversity, 

We give thanks for the diversity of our city – the oldest Chinese community in Europe, and our neighbours from African and Caribbean heritage, from Asia, Latin America, and Europe. 

We give thanks for the faith and belief of our neighbours: Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Humanist and Socialist. 

We rejoice in the many languages on our streets and in our homes: Chinese, Arabic, Polish, Somali, Kurdish, French, Cantonese, Spanish, Malayalam and Sign Language. 

We celebrate our siblings of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities who enrich the life of this city, and pray for those who remain hidden in fear for their safety. 

We grieve for the divisions in wealth which lead so many to our foodbanks, and pray for greater equity for all, whatever their need. 

May we continue to learn to live with difference and celebrate diversity, and offer your radical welcome, so all in our city may know they can bring their culture, their voice, their whole self, and find truly mutual relationship. 

Your kingdom come

ALL: Your will be done. 

God of our peace, 

We pray for the courage to be transformed by our past and our present with a passion for justice and peace in our homes and communities, our city, our country and our world. 

We pray for everyone impacted by Covid – all who have died, all who mourn without the comfort of closeness, and all whose access to healthcare depends on the generosity of those who have more than we need. 

May we build a culture of peace, with justice for all, today and always. 

Your kingdom come

ALL: Your will be done. 

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