Lament and Mourn 100,000
A call to grieve and honor those who have died from COVID-19 and join together in a day of remembrance and prayer for the healing of our nation.
Our nation will soon pass a grievous point in history: 100,000 Americans will have died from COVID-19. As people of faith, we cannot allow this grim number to go unnoticed. Always and everywhere, it is the duty of religious communities to remember the dead and mourn their passing. From generation to generation, we have been given this task: to speak their names and honor their lives. One hundred thousand dead Americans from COVID-19 shall not pass by unmarked and unlamented.
It is hard to comprehend the magnitude of deaths in so short a time. The past three months have been some of the deadliest months in US history, and Americans have endured more deaths than those who died in many of our wars, as we have just memorialized last weekend. At 100,000 deaths COVID-19 becomes the fifth most deadly event in US history. The numbers of deceased are the equivalent of whole towns and cities. The pandemic now ranks among those moments in the life of our nation that are marked by national remembrances, somber memorials, and moving tributes. As people of faith, we cannot let this moment pass unnoticed. The nation must be given the chance to mourn, lament, and remember the dead.
The rapid spread of the disease, the scope of its impact, and the mitigation through “social distancing” has prevented the time or space for us to grieve. It has been impossible to bury our dead as people have for thousands of years—communally and intimately with friends, family, and neighbors. As religious leaders, we are deeply connected with our nation’s pain. Both as individuals and collectively as a nation, we need time to stop, reflect, pray, mourn, and honor the dead.
To meet this need, religious communities across faiths are acting with unprecedented unity. People of faith and others of good will gather together to mourn, memorialize, and remember their lives both in our diverse faith traditions and in our public squares. And together, we will pray for the healing of our nation.
On May 29, 30, and 31st—Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—America’s religious communities will gather for the first time following this grim 100,000 marker—many of us still virtually. Each in keeping with their own traditions and practices will mourn our American dead and pray for the healing of our nation. On Friday, with Ramadan finished, Muslims will remember the reception of the Quran. On Friday and Saturday, Jews will remember God’s covenant as they celebrate Shavuot and read their yizkhor (remembrance) prayers. On Sunday, Christians will celebrate Pentecost Sunday, when the first Christians were given courage through the reception of the Holy Spirit. We will name, honor, lament, and offer our tributes to the lives and families of those who have died. The Christian prayers of mourning for the 100,000 dead will be offered across our Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, Pentecostal, African American, Hispanic, Asian American, and Native American traditions and communities.
But religious communities do not act alone. We call too on political leaders—the President, Senators and Members of Congress, Governors, and Mayors—to lead a national day of prayer and remembrance
on Monday, June 1st – at noon local time— to pause to remember those who have died. It will be appropriate for flags to be lowered and to observe moments of silence, mourning, memorial, prayer, reflection, and bell ringing. We will stop. We will remember. We will mourn and honor our dead. We will pray for the healing of the nation.
In the week prior to our national weekend of remembrance, we invite Americans to use social media and all other communication platforms to post prayers and laments, names, photos, and tributes to those who have died of the coronavirus in the United States. In many civic spaces, outside places of worship and outside of our homes, groups or individuals may place empty chairs with the names, dates, and photos as tribute and remembrance to those who are no longer with us.
We will ask God to help heal our land with a moment of mourning and honoring those many who have died, often without their loved ones around them. We come together both to weep and to rejoice for those lives which have been lost. We shall mourn the loss of so many humble Americans and ordinary citizens, known only to families and friends, coworkers and neighbors. We will mourn family members and friends whom we loved; worked and worshipped with; ate, played, and prayed with; important members of our communities, some who were on the front lines of caring for and serving others; and those we passed on the street with a smile and nod. By God’s grace, we will mourn with families who have not been able to memorialize, mourn, or properly bury their COVID dead.
Our lament will also honor hard truths we have learned during this pandemic: our suffering has been unequal, elders have been vulnerable and alone, black and brown neighbors have borne disproportionately both the brunt of sickness and death and having been drafted to the frontlines of fighting this disease. Native communities, our lands original caretakers, have been particularly hard hit—as they have been so many times in the past. Asian Americans have been targeted by hateful words and actions. Our prayers for the healing of the nation must acknowledge the brokenness of our democracy and rededicate ourselves to repair the injustices this pandemic has revealed, even as work for the healing of those who are afflicted with the virus
And this vocation of the faith community to stop, name, feel, remember, memorialize, and pray for the dead, their families and their friends; unites all our traditions and transcends our politics.
This momentous and tragic 100,000 marker will not be an empty data point on death’s grim graph; rather we will remember those whom we loved and pray for both healing and hope—for our nation and the world. As a people we have borne this pandemic’s cost in the lives of our loved ones; as a nation we shall honor and mourn them together.
As faith leaders we must help to lead our congregations, communities, and country in this time of grief and lament in a way that will lead us forward more united as a country to address the very real challenges we face ahead. And that we must do together.