[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has joined other faith leaders in calling for a national day of mourning and lament on June 1 as the United States exceeds 100,000 documented deaths from COVID-19, and he invites Episcopalians to commemorate the victims during worship services this weekend.
“I encourage Episcopalians to join with other people of faith this weekend to grieve and honor those who have died from COVID-19,” Curry said in a press release. “Let this tragic moment not pass without us honoring the many among us who have lost their lives or lost their loved ones and commending them and ourselves to God’s love and peace.”
The idea originated from a group of Christian leaders including Curry that meets regularly, led by Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners. The group issued a statement saying that “an unprecedented group of 100+ national faith leaders — from Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions” had signed on to the call, as well as the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
The grim milestone of 100,000 dead Americans coincides with a time that is sacred to all three Abrahamic faiths, said the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond The Episcopal Church. Muslims have just finished celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan; Jews will celebrate the feast of Shavuot May 28 through 30; and Christians will celebrate Pentecost on May 31.
“So that’s why, as we hit this 100,000 number in the U.S. alone, it seems appropriate that people in churches, synagogues and mosques throughout the nation recognize this moment and not let it pass without us honoring those who have lost their lives and their families,” Robertson told ENS.
The interfaith period of mourning builds on the ecumenical effort to remember, mourn and celebrate the lives that have been lost, as expressed in the National Council of Churches’ virtual memorial service on May 24, at which Curry spoke.
“This is yet another, even broader, coming together of people from all different religions,” the Rev. Margaret Rose, ecumenical and interreligious deputy to the presiding bishop, told ENS. “This is a time of lamenting and mourning, and it’s a time to come together.”
Local governments and civic groups will observe the national day of mourning with moments of silence, lowering of flags, interfaith vigils, ringing of bells and civic memorials, according to the group’s release, and congregations are encouraged to honor the dead this weekend in their own ways, according to their faith traditions. Worship resources for Episcopalians are available here.
“The beauty is that they can make notice of this and mark this tragic [milestone] of 100,000 deaths in their prayers of the people, they can find other ways in their liturgy to do it, in their preaching, but what we didn’t want was to prescribe a specific formula of what to do, but rather to simply call on everyone, each congregation in their own way, to find a way to mark this moment,” Robertson said.
One way Episcopalians can incorporate the gravity of the pandemic into their worship is by praying a new collect, composed by a team of Episcopalians and Lutherans, called “A Prayer for the Power of the Spirit Among the People of God.”
Written “to unite us in common prayer and revive us for common mission” during this crisis in the spirit of Pentecost, Curry and his Lutheran counterpart, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, invite congregations to pray it from Pentecost through the first Sunday in September. In addition to expressing a shared desire for renewal in a troubling time, the collect also commemorates nearly 20 years of full communion between The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The collect will be used in Washington National Cathedral’s Pentecost service, during which Curry will preach.
A Prayer for the Power of the Spirit Among the People of God
God of all power and love,
we give thanks for your unfailing presence
and the hope you provide in times of uncertainty and loss.
Send your Holy Spirit to enkindle in us your holy fire.
Revive us to live as Christ’s body in the world:
a people who pray, worship, learn,
break bread, share life, heal neighbors,
bear good news, seek justice, rest and grow in the Spirit.
Wherever and however we gather,
unite us in common prayer and send us in common mission,
that we and the whole creation might be restored and renewed,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.