How Does a Church Become a Supportive Community
To help others through the re-opening of in-person congregational life, it is important to have a basic understanding of what is potentially going to happen when we start gathering face-to-face. Rev. David Howlett and Elaine Howlett, creators of The Mourning Center at Christ UMC in Independence, Missouri, offer thought about how to minister with those who are grieving in the attached document.
Everyone has had multiple-losses and not all are due to the pandemic. This past year we have encountered political unrest and a diminished sense of security. Many are fearful and anxious about what might happen. It is natural to grieve our losses. As we cautiously begin in-person worship following a year of separation, certain realities need to be acknowledged. Stephen Arterburn correctly says “the great epidemic of the American church is unresolved grief.” This was true before the pandemic descended upon us and it is a challenge that faces the American church as we move forward. We can’t just ignore our reality by sweeping 2020 under the rug.
As we come back together, some in our congregations will:
- want to go forward without talking about anything that has happened; “I just want this to be over.”
- want/need to celebrate their survival and resiliency.
- want/need to deal with loss.
- dismiss the entire episode as a political hoax.
- be new people and want to know that others care about their presence.
- be self-medicating.
- be talking about how the pandemic was “God’s will” or punishment because of our sin, or wondering where was God.
- want/need to tell their story.