Jim Wallis on a Day to Mourn

Workers wearing personal protective equipment bury bodies in a trench on Hart Island on April 9, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York. The strip of land in Long Island Sound has long served as the city’s potter’s field. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The Rev. Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners, and author, most recently, of “Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus.” Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.


Lament
[luh-ment]

verb:
to feel, show, or express grief, sorrow, or regret
to mourn deeply

noun:
a crying out in grief: wailing

As we pass the horrifying milestone of 100,000 American deaths to the coronavirus, we’re using the hashtag #Lament100k to urge people to pause — to lament. Of course, the sentiment falls short. As a friend said to me, we can’t abbreviate all these lives; we have to try to feel all 100,000 of them.

One hundred thousand people is 500 plane crashes with 200 passengers on board each one (there have only been 33 airplane crashes with 200 or more fatalities in world history), 33 times the number of deaths on 9/11, two sold-out baseball stadiums, 25 filled National Cathedrals, nearly the number of U.S. soldiers killed in World War I and almost 15 times the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. If a COVID-19 memorial were built today and no one else in the U.S. died from the virus, it would need to be almost twice the length of the Vietnam War Memorial wall to fit the names of all those our nation has lost.

One hundred thousand neighbors, friends and family — grandfathers and grandmothers, fathers and mothers, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, even children — are now all dead from COVID-19.

It is a marker we must not pass by quickly or easily. We must stop. We must weep. We must mourn. We must honor. And we must lament, which is to feel and bear great grief and sorrow, and reflect upon it.

To pray for the healing of the nation is to go even deeper than our horrible sickness; we must also see the national brokenness and signs of hope the virus continues to reveal. Our suffering has been painfully racially disproportionate, but our healing must be in unison. To lament means more than weeping and mourning; it also includes regret — to ask why this happened, to understand that it didn’t have to be this way, that we could have been better, smarter, fairer, more compassionate and just.

As we mark the death of 100,000 people in the U.S. from COVID-19, an unprecedented group of 100 national faith leaders — from Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions, representing major denominations, national faith-based organizations, local congregations, and millions of people of faith across the country — is acting together. We have decided to mourn the dead and pray for healing in our respective worship services on May 29, 30 and 31. And together, we look to federal, state and local elected officials to observe Monday (June 1) as a National Day of Mourning and Lament, a time marked by moments of silence, lowering of flags, interfaith vigils and prayers, ringing of bells, and civic memorials.

This unity across our faith lines and differences within our own traditions has been amazing to see and blessed to experience. To come together in our churches, to reach out to our Jewish and Muslim friends and to appeal to our elected officials with a national hunger for a day of mourning and lament has been a deep encouragement and sign of hope for me.

Alexis Williams, the widow of Bishop Carl Williams Jr., wears a mask with their picture on it during his funeral at the Institutional International Ministries church in the Brooklyn borough of New York on May 21, 2020. Carl Williams Jr. was the emeritus pastor of the Institutional International Ministries, a congregation started by his father, Carl Williams Sr. The congregation and Williams Jr. are more widely known for their gospel group, the Institutional Radio Choir. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

It’s also been a blessing to see the U.S. Conference of Mayors join us in these efforts, to use the opportunity to strengthen and grow connections with their local interfaith groups. The national, bipartisan mayors conference joined us in announcing today:

This call is being supported by the U.S. Conference of Mayors who represent over 1,400 mayors across the country. Mayors lead on the front line of the COVID-19 response effort and continue to model critical local leadership amid this difficult time. Together, interfaith leaders and mayors across the nation will seek to transcend our divisions and call us to lament, mourn, and honor the dead; acknowledge the unequal suffering; pray together for the healing of the nation; and recommit ourselves to the difficult work ahead.

And the National Governors Association is inviting governors to take part.

The National Day of Mourning and Lament will follow a weekend of Muslim, Jewish and Christian services (including Protestant, Catholic, evangelical, African American, Hispanic, Asian American and Native American), all united in a time of lament and mourning for the dead. The vocation of remembering and honoring the dead transcends politics and unites us across lines of religion.

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Source: Religion News Service