5 July 2022

The impact of Covid-19: Take time to lament

Amy Quinn-Graham

People on a bus wearing face masks
Amy Quinn-Graham begins a series of articles in which Research and Development personnel reflect on how our approach to mission has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Members of THQ’s Research and Development Unit have been conducting territory-wide research into how Covid-19 has affected missional thinking and practice during the pandemic and beyond. Over the next few weeks we will feature some of the key themes that have emerged and reflect on how we can respond as individuals and local mission units.

This week we explore prayer and lament, themes that featured significantly in the research in allowing corps and centres to reflect on their missional role, rather than rushing to solutions. Almost a quarter (23 per cent) of corps officers interviewed by phone claimed they felt God was telling them to slow down, reflect and spend time in prayer to discern how to move forward missionally.

Salvationist wearing a face masks and preparing food parcels
Many officers feel God telling them to slow down, reflect and spend time in prayer to discern how to move forward missionally

It is now more than two years since we first encountered Covid-19 and, for some, the pandemic feels like a thing of the past. Restrictions have lifted and there are other crises grabbing the headlines. It can be tempting to assume that the pain of the pandemic has passed, that the time for reflection, prayer and lament has gone and that we are now in the action phase.

However, many are still living with the consequences of Covid-19, be that the effects of long Covid, continuing to grieve the death of a loved one or – because variants of the virus are still in circulation – the fear of being vulnerable without the protection of restrictions. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘lament’ as ‘a crying out in grief’. For many people, there is still much to cry out in grief about.

Even for those who have resumed their pre-pandemic routines relatively unscathed, there is wisdom in taking time to reflect and question where suffering remains. After all, God meets us in our pain. Even when Jesus knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead, he still stopped and wept, mourning the loss of his friend (see John 11:32–35).

Within Christian communities, lamenting can help people process what they’ve been through and recognise how God was with them even in their darkest moments, aiding them to trust in his presence and future provision. A biblical lament doesn’t stop at crying out in grief; it always leads to hope (see Psalms 6, 10 and 130).

What could lamenting look like for you or your corps? Here are some steps that individuals or groups could take to facilitate the process:

Start the conversation

Why not gather some people from your corps and start a conversation about lamenting? You could use the following prompts:

  • How do you feel about the idea of a lament?
  • What would you find useful in processing loss from the pandemic, either individually or as a community?
  • How can we create spaces to lament together?

Create spaces to lament

Lamenting may look different from corps to corps.

Tealights burning
Lieut-Colonel Jayne Roberts suggests lamenting could involve storytelling, creating a space for people to respond or praying in a small group

Secretary for Spiritual Life Development Lieut-Colonel Jayne Roberts offers these suggestions for groups:

  • Storytelling: Two or three people from your corps could record their stories from the pandemic to build solidarity and help people acknowledge or share their stories and experiences.
  • Dedicating a space: People may need more than a one-off moment to lament. Why not dedicate a noticeboard or a corner of a room to lament, where people can write, draw or engage in other creative ways to process their experiences?
  • Utilising small groups: If you have regular small groups that meet, why not dedicate some of the prayer time during those meetings to prayers of lament? This could also include a time of silence for people to respond in unstructured prayer as they feel prompted.

As an individual, you could map out your journey through the pandemic by drawing a river or road that takes you from your pre-pandemic experiences to now. Mark on the journey the places where you experienced pain, loss, frustration or despair. Spend some time in prayer with your map, crying out to God by naming each moment and the pain it brought and laying it at his feet.

Look beyond

Of course, it is not only those within The Salvation Army who have been affected by the pandemic. Part of continuing to love our communities effectively may be providing them with space to lament as well. There is power in seeing the Church being brave enough to wail, weep and name the pain, but still choosing, ultimately, to trust in God.

Written by

A photo of Amy Quinn-Graham

Amy Quinn-Graham

Action Researcher, Research and Development Unit

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