OPINION: ’Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted’

Demi Brandenburg, 12, stares at a candle outside of the National Museum for Civil and Human Rights on Thursday evening August 27, 2020, as part of the “Loved Ones, Not Numbers” campaign to humanize the toll of the current pandemic. BEN GRAY / FOR THE AJC
Demi Brandenburg, 12, stares at a candle outside of the National Museum for Civil and Human Rights on Thursday evening August 27, 2020, as part of the “Loved Ones, Not Numbers” campaign to humanize the toll of the current pandemic. BEN GRAY / FOR THE AJC

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

A month ago, I told you about a nationwide effort to bring Americans together to grieve the deaths of loved ones and other losses we’ve suffered during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Churches, synagogues and mosques across the country were holding interfaith vigils, billed as Mourning Into Unity, to first mourn our losses and then lament.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta was among them.

The effort came to my attention just as they were wrapping up in early November.

The Rev. Ed Bacon, interim rector of St. Luke’s, told me then that the exercise was a reminder that “God enters every suffering, and turns it into redemption, more abundant living.”

The good news is St. Luke’s is in the midst of holding more of these vigils so more of us will have the opportunity to participate.

ExploreHow mourning might help build a unified community, nation

They are scheduled to be held each Monday through Jan. 4 via Zoom. And come Jan. 10, a Global Day of Mourning is set to get underway as well.

More on that later.

St. Luke’s will join leaders from all faith communities as well as the medical profession each evening at 6 p.m. for 30-minute prayer vigils.

The Rev. Ed Bacon is interim rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta. (Courtesy of St. Luke's)
The Rev. Ed Bacon is interim rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta. (Courtesy of St. Luke's)

Credit: Photo courtesy of St. Luke's

Credit: Photo courtesy of St. Luke's

They will pray for peace and healing, a safe and secure election and strength as the country transitions to another administration.

More than anything, they intend to pray to heal the divisions among us — to heal and be at peace with one another.

This being the Advent season, the prayers couldn’t be happening at a better time.

Indeed, each Mourning Into Unity vigil “is an enactment of the message of Advent: that in the midst of deepening darkness, the brightest Divine Light appears,” Bacon told me via email recently.

“So, as the word, ‘Advent,’ means, ‘expectant waiting’ for Light to come into our darkness,” he said, “we expect a new realization of Light and Hope to come into the midst of this pandemic of COVID-19 and the other viruses of systemic racism, economic distress, and divisiveness.”

ExploreWall of hearts sees COVID-19 deaths as loved ones, not numbers

I mentioned the upcoming Global Day of Mourning, the brainchild of Trebbe Johnson, founder of the nonprofit Radical Joy for Hard Times.

The mission, she said, isn’t that different from Mourning Into Unity. Like its organizers, she wants to give people here and across the globe space to express their grief over losing so much during the coronavirus pandemic and hopefully discover compassion and joy during this difficult time.

It is, however, different from anything Radical Joy, based in northeastern Pennsylvania, has done since its founding in 2009. Instead of coming together in sorrow over a melting glacier or an open-pit coal mine, as is their usual focus, the nonprofit is inviting us to mourn the loss of the world as we knew it.

“With COVID, it seems like the entire world is a wounded place,” she said.

To be sure, no one has been untouched by the virus in one way or another.

Since Jan. 11, when the first COVID-19 death was reported in China, the virus has infected more than 60 million people worldwide and killed about 1.5 million people.

In this country alone, almost 15 million have been confirmed infected and more than 280,000 have already died.

A Global Day of Mourning, Johnson said, will give the world permission to grieve together and hopefully find new energy for coping and creating solutions.

“In sharing our stories with others, online or safely distancing, we realize that we are not alone,” she said. “Coming together with others around the world, we see that, though the pandemic has affected each of us in different ways, we all experience sorrow and concern.”

And so on Jan. 10, Johnson hopes we will take a moment to actively grieve for what we’ve lost, in a safe, socially distanced space and reaffirm what brings and holds us together.

She believes that when we open up to admitting our grief, instead of trying to shut it down or run away from it, it brings us to a place where we can both receive and give creativity, generosity and kindness.

Like Mourning Into Unity, they will be doing much of this via social media.

If for some reason you feel this is way too much mourning, remember what the good Lord had to say about that. Blessed are they who mourn.

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.

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