Conference Leaders Among Signers of Letter Calling for Communal Lament, Focus on Mental Health

Conference Leaders Among Signers of Letter Calling for Communal Lament, Focus on Mental Health

Responding to increasing distress and despair among pastors and across congregations, church leaders from all six New England states signed on to a Massachusetts Council of Churches letter calling for communal lament and a focus on mental health.

Bridge Conference Ministers The Rev. Marilyn Kendrix and The Rev. Don Remick, and Conference President The Rev. Jocelyn Gardner Spencer, were among the over two dozen church leaders signing the letter, which states: “As bishops, heads of church, and regional Church leaders, we see and hear from you of the funerals postponed, the elders isolated, the children confused, the parents worn, the checkbooks empty, the feeding programs overtaxed, the unjust inequalities increasing.” The Church leaders write, “Our pain increases as national leaders have failed to acknowledge the depth of collective suffering from both the historic deaths from COVID19, and among Black people and communities of color from racist violence. Pain unseen, unacknowledged, and unaddressed festers.”

Drawing on writing and research of Rev. Dr. Emmet t G. Price III of the Institute of the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon Conwell Theological School, lament is the ancient, communal practice of naming before God the depths of our despair. The Church leaders write, “We need to lament. We have been soaked in suffering, as a nation and a Church. Some communities have endured disproportionate death, through no fault of their own. We need to wail and grieve and pray together. We lament fully when we know one another’s suffering.”

“In every community, pastors are front line responders to the physical, spiritual, and emotional trauma of COVID-19, racist violence, political anger, economic worry, and the despair of those losing hope. I think of the pastors who bury the dead on Saturday, preach a word of hope on Sunday and work their second jobs again on Monday. The Church leaders are profoundly concerned about the well-being of these weary shepherds. We wanted to break from the silence and stoicism, and call one another to lament all that we’ve lost and take better care of the caregivers.” said Rev. Laura Everett, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches.

After reporting increases of early clergy retirements, mental health breaks, medical leaves from ministry, sickness and even deaths by suicide, Church leaders from across the range of Christian traditions worked together to form a common response. They recommended: Deliberate Resetting of Expectations in Local Church; Rebuking of Perfectionism and Permission to Rest; Intentional, Communal Call to Lament; Sharing of Mental Health Resources and Commitment to Speak Publicly about Mental Health. 

Read the full letter and its list of signatories here
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