Jena Lee Nardella, cofounder and executive director of Blood:Water Mission, offered the benediction Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention, after First Lady Michelle Obama’s keynote address.
Nardella, a resident of East Nashville, is a member of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Chapel at Vanderbilt University, which describes itself as “the Wesley/Canterbury Fellowship and a Center for Contemplative Justice.”
At age 22 in 2004, Nardella founded Blood:Water Mission (with the members of the Grammy-award winning band Jars of Clay) to address water and HIV/AIDS crises in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 700,000 people in 1,100 communities have gained access to safe water and tens of thousands living with HIV/AIDS have access to medical treatment, care and support.
Nardella recently attended the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., and participated in a gathering of faith leaders with Department of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the White House.
“It is our faith that motivates us and compels us to care, not divides us,” Nardella said in a news release. “As author John Stott once said, ‘Love has no need to justify itself.’ We all have a responsibility to act and come together in one purpose. At this important time in our country, I pray my benediction conveys God’s deep desire for unity and peace in the US as well as across the globe.”
The text of Nardella’s benediction follows.
As a young woman of faith and a leader, I am humbled to follow the First Lady, whom we all admire. So, thank you for inviting me here. As we close this day, let us quiet our hearts in prayer.
God, I stand before You and ask that the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing unto You.
I pray for our President, Barack Obama. May he know Your presence, oh God, as he continues to serve as a leader of this nation, as a husband to Michelle, and as father to his daughters. Help him to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with you.
I pray as well for Governor Mitt Romney. May he know Your presence, oh God, as he continues to serve as a leader, as a husband to Ann, and as a father to his sons and their families. Help him to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with you.
I pray for our country in the next nine weeks leading up to this election - for those of us meeting here and for our fellow citizens who met last week. May we make our children proud of how we conduct ourselves. We know our human tendencies toward finger-pointing and frivolousness. Our better selves want this race to be honest and edifying rather than fabricated and self-serving.
Give us, oh Lord, humility to listen to our sisters and brothers across the political spectrum, because your kingdom is not divided into Red States and Blue States. Equip us with moral imagination to have real discourse. Knit us, oh God, as one country even as we wrestle over the complexity of how we ought to live and govern. Give us gratitude for our right to dissent and disagree. For we know that we are bound up in one another and have been given the tremendous opportunity to extend humanity and grace when others voice their deeply held convictions even when they differ from our own.
And give us wisdom, God, to discover honest solutions for we know it will take all of us to care for the widow and the orphan, the sick and the lonely, the downtrodden and the unemployed, the prisoner and the homeless, the stranger and the enemy, the thirsty and the powerless. In rural Africa, I am witness to thousands of HIV positive mothers, fathers and children who are alive today because Democrats and Republicans put justice and mercy above partisanship. Help us keep that perspective even as we debate one another.
God, I thank you for the saving grace of Jesus and for the saints who have humbly gone before us. I thank you for the words of St. Francis of Assisi whose prayer I carry with me both in my home in East Nashville and in my work across rural Africa.
As we enter this election season, I pray St. Francis’ words for us all.
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Photo of Jena Lee Nardella courtesy of Blood:Water Mission