Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi sent the following message today to clergy and local church leaders in Western Pennsylvania.
The King James Version of Isaiah 53:3 told us that the servant who would come to save would be a man of sorrow who would be acquainted with grief. If there is any comfort to be had during these times, it is the assurance that my Savior is acquainted with the grief I feel because another member of our annual conference has succumbed to COVID-19. I know that Jesus weeps with me. Jesus weeps with all of us.
I must confess that at times during this past year my grief and sorrow have been overwhelming. And I have heard from some of you that there have been moments during this pandemic that you have felt overwhelmed by grief too. Our grief has been complicated by the fact that in general we have not been able to gather in person to share our sorrow or say good-bye to our lay and clergy colleagues. Further, many of us have been under a tremendous amount of stress because we are worried about our finances, our own health, the health of our loved ones, and our church.
I pray this scripture for all of us:
Blessed be the God who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. (2 Corinthians 1: 3a, 4)
I pray this familiar prayer for all of us:
God of us all, your love never ends. When all else fails, you still are God. We pray to you for one another in our need, and for all, anywhere, who mourn this day. To those who doubt, give light; to those who are weak, strength; to all who have sinned, mercy; to all who sorrow, your peace. Keep true in us the love with which we hold one another. In all our ways we trust you. And to you, with your Church on earth and in heaven, we offer honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.
If you are mourning and feeling overwhelmed, know that I am praying for you and that you have a Savior who knows all about your sorrow. Even though I cannot physically stand with you during this time, I stand with you spiritually. I am with you at the graveside as together we bury all that is no more. And because we weep together, so we will get through this together.
I urge you to call someone who you know is experiencing grief. Offer them the consolation God has offered you in the past. If you are not in a position to call, send a card or letter. Let them know that you are praying for them and that you stand with them.
If you, yourself, need help grieving, reach out to someone and ask for help. We are here for you. We can pray, listen, laugh, cry, stand, sit in silence, or read scripture with you - whatever you need we are here for each other. And if your grief gets really complicated, reach out to a professional.
Finally, hear this familiar prayer from The United Methodist Book of Worship Service of Death and Resurrection:
Eternal God, we praise you for the great company of all those who have finished their course in faith and now rest from their labor. We praise you for those dear to us whom we name in our hearts before you. To all of these, grant your peace. Let perpetual light shine upon them; and help us so to believe where we have not seen, that your presence may lead us through our years, and bring us at last with them into the joy of your home not made with hands but eternal in the heavens; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.