On Monday, March 1, I was invited to participate in a COVID Memorial Day Service for the City of Newburyport. The event was organized by Mayor Donna Holaday and included several local clergy: The Rev. Rebecca Bryant of the First Religious Society (Unitarian-Universalist), the Rev. Dr. Sara Singleton of Old South Presbyterian Church, and Fr. Timothy Harrison of Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church. In addition, many houses of worship rang bells or observed moments of silence at noon for the 33 Newburyport residents who have died from the virus. During the memorial service, we were joined by public school students who sang the national anthem, read original poetry, played violin, shared a prayer from the Lakota nation, and offered their own reflections on this moment. It was a beautiful expression of grief and mutual support for our community. I wanted to share the prayer that I offered that day with you.
God of mercy and love, God of justice and hope,
We lift our hearts to you and raise our voices in prayer and supplication. In this time when the COVID pandemic continues to disrupt our lives and reveals the long-ignored inequities in our world, our lives are immersed in grief for lives lost, lives diminished, and dreams shattered.
Our souls resound with the words of the psalmist, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?” You know the reflections of our hearts, dear God, and you know how often we grieve in silence. You know our isolation, one from another.
You know our efforts to demonstrate love of neighbor and love of self with social distance and hand washing and masks. You know that these loving acts of caution and distance have made it difficult to hear each other’s voices. You know that we have not even been able to sing together. So we ask in this moment of collective grief and memorial for the City of Newburyport that you come close with your healing touch. Allow us to hear one another in voices raised in lament but do not let us languish there.
Come close with your healing touch.
Inspire us anew to cry out in love for one another, to proclaim justice and equity for all people, even those whose lives are so often overlooked. Allow us to hear one another so that we might sing a new song in hope.
Remind us again to trust in your steadfast love. Let our hearts rejoice in your salvation, so that we might work with you and one another to build a new world where justice and lovingkindness are the foundation for all that we do.
In times of great and unexpected community loss, we need collective acts of memorial to express our grief. I am grateful for the mayor’s leadership on this issue and hope that we as a congregation will also create moments to reflect together on our loss and our hope for the future.
Grace and Peace,