Sunday's service at All Saints Church in Pasadena began with this opening versicle and response:
Minister: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
People: For the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
The processional hymn was "O Beautiful for Spacious Skies" and then we prayed together the Collect of the Day for Independence Day: 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.
And then we heard a moving reading of Langston Hughes' "Let America Be America Again" challenging us to remember not only what the American dream looks like but how far we have fallen short of realizing that vison of liberty and justice for ALL. We heard a rousing sermon from the rector (which I hope will be available online shortly) and then at the offertory, as is our custom on Independence Sunday, the American flag was presented along with the other offerings and oblations of our lives and labors unto our Lord: a sacramental offering of our hopes, dreams and failings as a nation on this day of both celebration and reflection.
This year the flag was presented by one of our acolyte alumni serving on active duty with the United States Coast Guard in full dress uniform and accompanied by his two moms who both looked proud enough to burst. And as this brave, faithful, amazing young man laid the folded-in-a-triangle stars-and-stripes on the altar and smartly saluted the celebrant it was impossible to not be filled with pride at all that is best about who we are as a country and who we are as a church. The fact that we have failed dramatically to live up to our high calling does not diminish either the power or the hope of that calling -- and days like yesterday are exactly what this weary patriot needs to be renewed and refreshed for the work ahead.
Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.