These are challenges we all face. Here are some perspectives to guide us, from pastors and friends…
A Reflection on 1 Kings 19:11-13
God said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of YHWH, for YHWH is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountain apart and shattered the rocks by YHWH’s power—but YHWH was not in the whirlwind. After the wind there was an earthquake—but YHWH was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire—but YHWH was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” The Inclusive Bible
Christian R&B artist Tauren Wells sings one of my favorite songs – Hills and Valleys. It is such a reflection of my life and spirituality. Sometimes the highs are really high and lows are really, really low. Hills and valleys.
My family and I have been in a spiral of transition since we left Milwaukee in 2017. Trying to get rooted in Los Angles just to find the ground shifting below us. A short-term bridge call in Hawai’i extending into a year. Jobs and schools and a pandemic and then relocating to Seattle felt like constant transition. These big moments are metaphorical—a whirlwind, an earthquake, a fire. Maybe you’re feeling like you’re being tossed too and fro in a whirlwind. Or the ground is shaking beneath you, shaking your faith to the core. What I love about this encounter between Elijah and God is that the encounter with the divine isn’t massive. It isn’t a phenomena. It is the soft presence of a gentle whisper.
When I’m looking for a sign from God, I want clouds to open, a voice to call out, a bush to burn . When I’m shouting at God or silent in grief I’d love the ground to shake so I know God is listening. Usually I get a whisper. A small gesture. A word of encouragement. A bit of scripture. A few notes in a song. The small, the ordinary – this is where the presence of God passes me by. Whatever season you are in, whether on a mountaintop or a valley, I pray for a moment of stillness to listen for the whisper. – contributed by Pastor Steve Jerbi
The emotional course of grief—healing in motion
Years ago Judith Viorst, wrote a book called, Necessary Losses. In it she helps the reader to understand that all of life contains losses, some more challenging than others. Perhaps the most difficult losses are losing family members and friends through retirement, moving, and death. Some losses we anticipate and can prepare for. Others, such as a sudden death hit us very hard, leaving us filled with often inconsolable grief. “Whether through the loss of a loved one, a way of life, or a cherished community, grief is the reaction to being torn from what you love.”
Although it seems counterintuitive, the most effective way to grieve is to find the courage to step into the process rather than avoiding it. “Grief plays an essential role in our coming undone from previous attachments. It is the necessary current we need to carry us into our next becoming. Without it, we may remain stuck in that area of our life, which can limit the whole spectrum of our feeling alive.”
By committing to grieving we can be freed up to love. By committing to sorrow we can also feel joy. There is an illusion that grief goes away, when it actually is with us as a constant companion that we need to befriend. One poet likens grief to a large pool inside us that we can dip into any time we need to. The tears that come quickly at memories of a loved one come from that pool. As those tears stream down your cheeks, let them be a baptism of love. (Quotes are from
Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home by Toko-pa Turne) ~ contributed by Carol Scott-Kassner
A retired minister’s perspective
In my active ministry I was a settled pastor, a bridge pastor and a governing body executive. I moved around a lot. I experienced many farewells and new beginnings. I learned that I could honor the folks/church/town I was leaving by having a strong ministry and witness in the new setting. So….if I am anxious about working with a new bridge minister, I can move into that future work with all the skills and grace I have learned from the pastor who has left…..and with gratitude that I have been given those skills and experienced that grace. And I can leave behind some actions that I had learned were harmful and be grateful that I had been so well taught!
I also worried about whether I would be remembered, or whether the person who left ahead of me would be remembered. In Genesis 8, in the midst of the flood that God unleashed on creation, there is this simple word: “But God remembered Noah…..” In the Lord’s Supper we say Jesus’ words to the disciples: “Do this, remembering me…..” We are re-membered by the work of God’s Spirit in our midst. Our life together is the sign of our being remembered, held dear and encouraged in our on-going journey.
So we can grieve the separation from people whom we love, but we can also celebrate their continuing life with us by the way we do future ministry and by the ways in which we re-member ourselves in Jesus Christ. ~ contributed by John Worthington
Connecting makes a difference
“I miss Catherine.” “I miss singing hymns together at church.” “I don’t feel comfortable yet going to worship in a live setting.”
It’s been such a painful two years. All of us feel it in some way—and in different ways. Within our church setting we have experienced many forms of loss —no singing together; a beloved pastor of 20 years gone; many changes.
But we are not alone because all of us feel loss and grief. Being together makes a difference. We may not be able to sing in worship but there is harmony in our togetherness whether in person, on Zoom, or in a telephone call.
Connecting brings warmth, love and joy into our lives. People will come and go but the community, the Body of Christ remains. Together we can diminish our grief and feel joy as we find our center in a community that loves God and works joyfully for justice. And we lean into a Jesus who says: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.” With hope and faith we move forward – together. ~ contributed by Gail Crouch
Caring in times of grief and loss
We have been living through difficult times, and many of us have experienced grief. Some have lost a dearly loved friend or family member. Some have lost a job or opportunity or something else that held great meaning. As a community, we have lost a beloved pastor. It can help to pay attention to physical, emotional and spiritual needs that often accompany us as we grieve.
Physical needs may include adequate sleep, eating well and exercise. To help others, consider offering to bring a meal, accompany on a walk out in nature or help with childcare to allow time for rest. To care for yourself, reach out for support from trusted friends, family and caregivers and let yourself be nurtured by them.
Emotional needs can be overwhelming, and a compassionate, non-judgmental listener helps create a safe and supportive environment in which one can name and express the many feelings of grief. For some, journaling and artwork can facilitate this process.
After a loss, people may turn to their faith for comfort or find themselves questioning their beliefs. Seeking out folks who can be present to you in your faith and doubts and allow for their open expression is helpful. When alone, sitting with a lighted candle, breathing and repeating a short prayer such as “I am… in God’s hands” may be soothing.
Always, be kind to yourself, reach out to others and trust in your own unique process of grief. ~ contributed by Mary Jeanne Phipps