We inhabit a world where life plus the pandemic have given us much to grieve. Simultaneously, that same pandemic has robbed us of access to many of the opportunities we, historically, have leaned into during times of sorrow. On September 29th, Trinity Lutheran held a “grief evening”. There was time in the sanctuary for individual contemplation with live music as the background, plus a 20-minute gathering with readings and prayers. “Remember and Grieve Together” was designed as a time to name the losses that make us feel less-than-whole and, surrounded by those who love us, to hear words of validation and comfort. Here is the link to the video https://youtu.be/Bpkw0Wgqmf4
In ministry, the events we plan often become more than just those events themselves. They serve as frameworks for many other blessings that occur before, during, and after. At times, these may actually feel more impactful than the event itself. From our experience of September 29, here are a few:
- Our research introduced us to contemporary prayers and readings. These words captured exactly many of our thoughts and feelings. To them we added ancient treasures such as Psalm 23, Isaiah 43, and Romans 8. We are so grateful for “Speak It Plain” by Meta Herrick Carlson and “Creating Space: A Prayer Book for Peace in Times of Crisis and Chaos” from waytolead.org.
- We asked people to submit names of those who died or moved away and, if possible, photographs or objects to remind us of them. The “grief work” of going through photographs and making selections was, we know, both hard AND helpful. The sharing of these treasures was an exercise in trust. The gathering of this collection generated some loving conversations. And the final display showed faces, personalized in ways that statistics on the evening news can never convey.
- Within our culture, it is “acceptable” to grieve people who have died (as long as we don’t do it too loudly or for too long). Our event surprised some people by suggesting that we also grieve for other reasons: when pets die; when people move away; when discourse becomes so uncivil that talking with friends and family feels like walking through a minefield; when treasured events get cancelled; when relationships are fractured; when we lose the ability to plan; when we can no longer be sure that a runny nose or sore throat is just that (and not the dreaded virus). It was powerful to acknowledge things which some people had not yet realized they were grieving.
We all seek to feel whole, grieving those things that leave us feeling less-than-whole. But we find comfort in each other and in the words of our faith, such as these from Romans 8:
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
An ancient prayer still relevant today...
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us the faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.