Walk the path of healing for your church

January 24th, 2022

The recurring Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt our plans. Many congregations are weighed down with grief, resentment, and fear, unable to move forward. Many leaders are tired and discouraged. This year, as a way to restore hope and purpose, let's move through the stages of repentance, remembrance, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, and embracing on each of the six Sundays of Lent.

A Day of Repentance

Metanoia, which is translated as "repentance" or "a changed heart and life," means "to turn back" to God. Recognize how you may have played a part in harming another. Did you push people away with acts of injustice or ignore a neighbor? Did you contribute to acts of polarization or lose the way of hope? Congregational acts of repentance include sending out the prayer of confession and pardon from your denomination's service of Holy Communion, asking your congregation to read and reflect on it, and bring their contemplations to worship. Read the prayer slowly and deliberately to truly grasp the depth of each line.

A Day of Remembrance

Spend time as a congregation in active remembrance. Remember those who have passed and the gifts that they brought. Remember the ones you could not visit and their seat in the sanctuary. Remember your family members, neighbors, and loved ones who have died because of Covid or other causes. Acknowledge human loss, offer thanksgiving for their legacy, and joy that death is not the end of life. Celebrate Holy Communion as a congregational act of remembering, that at this sacred table we gather together with those on the journey of life and with those who are in our great cloud of witnesses.

A Day of Acceptance

Acceptance tends to be a touchy subject. We saw this on the national stage as the country debated the existence of Covid and the legitimacy of the election process. In the church, acceptance is deeply connected with faith. Degrees of faith tend to be used as a measuring stick for whom we accept and whom we do not. Acceptance does not mean approval. Acceptance is simply the willingness to recognize what is so, whether you personally believe it is good or not. It is an act of surrender, a way to release control over what we never had control of in the first place. Congregational acts of acceptance include creating a personal or communal “bulletin” board (physical or digital) that represents all the changes that have taken place during the pandemic: what has been gained and what has been lost. This “bulletin” board can then become a point for reflective prayer.

A Day of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is necessary when harm has been done. The pandemic has evoked many strong opinions and reactions among us. Whether it is the issue of vaccines and masks, politics and the presidential election, or social distancing and working from home, it feels like thousand different harms pulled us further away from each other. I’ve spoken to many friends, family members, and colleagues whose sorrow has led to resentment, blame, and judgment—and even resignation. While blame and judgment seem understandable in extreme circumstances, the rancor that lives within is poisonous to your body, mind, and spirit. Forgiveness opens the way for healing to begin. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you condone someone else’s behavior. It means that you are willing to stop carrying the harm within yourself. Congregational acts of forgiveness include prayer for oneself, friends, and enemies, and the surrender of resentment and rancor to God’s loving care.

A Day of Gratitude 

Gratitude is the heart’s response to the gifts of God. Although much has been lost during the pandemic, much has also been gained. Amplify the feelings of gratitude within your heart by counting your blessings. Take time to reflect on and recognize all that you can be thankful for, and what you have learned from the changes that have taken place. Congregational acts of gratitude include hymn sings, sharing of testimonies, and acts of service for others.

A Day of Embracing

Embracing is a positive, proactive act that allows one to move forward into a new future. It’s an open heart that can both pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” and “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This kind of embracing embodies the unconditional love of God that flows outward to all, no strings attached. Congregational acts of embracing include reciting affirmations of faith, anointing, and speaking new visions into life.

As we approach or journey through Lentwhich of these congregational acts will prepare your people to receive the gifts of resurrection? Which will bring healing, wholeness, and a renewed awe on this gift we call life? Even though the pandemic is not over, and the economy seems fragile, it’s time to look ahead for what new plans God is unfolding. We won’t be ready to receive them unless we repent, remember, accept, forgive, express gratitude, and embrace.

While we can’t rush the process, once we walk the path through these six stages, we can be ready once again to co-create miracles with God.

Rebekah Simon-Peter is offering Jesus-Sized Dreams for Small-Sized Churches, a three-session workshop where you’ll learn how to Dream Like Jesus and bring renewal to your congregation and community.

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