photo courtesy of Joshua Lesser

Atlanta Rabbi Starts an international, multifaith support system for clergy during the Coronavirus pandemic

When Atlanta Rabbi Joshua Lesser started an Facebook group for clergy of all faiths to discuss responses to the coronavirus pandemic, he expected around 150 people to join. 

Within a week, over 5,000 leaders representing multitude of faiths and countries joined the group, named “Multifaith Clergy & Spiritual Communal Responses to COVID-19.” 

“Pretty immediately I had the sense of how overwhelming this moment was going to be, and there was the intersection of what our practical needs were going to be and what our emotional needs were going to be,” Lesser said. 

In the group, members share meditations and ways to address anxieties and hardships about.

But, the group is also a space for religious leaders to be open about hardships they are facing in the pandemic as well. 

“In order to be in presence of peoples greatest senses of loss and anxiety and fear we needed a place were we could share what was authentically happening for us. We have families and anxieties too,” Lesser said. 

Letitia Campell, a co-administrator of the group and professor at Emory’s Candler School of Theology, said she’s seen “lots of people experimenting with new ways to provide care to people at a distance” in the group. 

The group encompasses “people in a wide range of religious and spiritual leadership roles — chaplains, cantors, spiritual directors, lay leaders, educators, and musicians are all in the group along with other clergy leaders like pastors, rabbis, imams, and so on,” Campell said. 

Campbell also noted that she is particularly struck by the multitude of faiths represented - the group has Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Unitarian, and Hindu presence- and the learning opportunities the group provides. 

“There are conversations that are particular to specific religious traditions and its an opportunity for us to learn about each other,” she continued, “I think in the moment that we’re in we need the resources of all of our traditions to respond to our communities now.”

Lesser has received “overwhelming” positive feedback about the group, and hopes it will be a continued place for support. But, he is unsure what will happen in the future. 

He said, “I kind of equate this moment to all of us trying balance on jello. I don’t know what will happen once we all gain stability. If this group is just operating until we all find balance it will be worth while.”

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