At this time of social distancing and the cancellation of many milestones of a young person’s life (graduation from high school or college, prom, senior activities, sports, performances, driver’s licenses, confirmation, etc.) there is a need to acknowledge such loss.
The Confirmation Collaborative, a group of Christian formation leaders in The Episcopal Church who come together in person and virtually to live out its mission, recently met via Zoom to talk about the various projects we are working on. We chose instead to focus on creating a source that might assist churches and youth in this time of sadness and grief.
Below are some of the ideas that were generated. It should be noted that these should occur through individual expression and/or online gatherings (zoom, Google classroom, etc.). If at all possible, gather young people together in advance (online) for their input and creation of any liturgy or expression you may choose to construct. Invite them to offer contributions in word, image, music, or any expression they may find unique to their own personality or the group’s identity.
Two Helpful Articles
- The Year Without Graduation. To the Class of 2020: This is your loss, and we need to pay attention. Even in a pandemic. by Jill A. Johnson-Young, LCSW, Grief therapist, international speaker on grief and dementia, author, LCSW at Central Counseling Services. April 5, 2020
- Naming loss and gratitude with young people in these uncertain days by Brad M. Griffin from Fuller Youth Institute. March 20, 2020
- Create a daily devotion post, making sure there are a variety of learning styles/modalities used such as listening, reading, and doing.
- Use Instagram for story sharing and invite youth to submit pictures, poems, and prayers. Compile their stories into a video and share on your church’s website and social media platforms.
- Create Canva posts of psalms, prayers, images. Invite contributions (see further in this document some prayers, psalms, and scripture that can be used) from all members of your congregation.
Memorials and Slide Shows/Videos
- Create memorials “to your senior year” through a collection and compilation of videos, images, and photos of experiences you shared together over the past year/s.
- Invite youth to create an Ofrenda (Day of the Dead) altar of objects; a recognition that we are surrounded by the communion of saints – living and dead. It is a celebration that can be done at home or in churches. Invite individuals to take photos and post on Instagram or compile them all into a video.
- Create a digital quilt symbolizing unity. Invite individuals to submit a square (photo, Instagram post, poem, etc.) and merge them together in a video presentation or physical object that can be shared at a later date when all are gathered (or hang outside your church for “drive-by viewing”).
- Compile photos of youth and/or group photos of their experiences together. Create an online slideshow put to a favorite group song and intersperse it with prayers, psalms of lament, and psalms of joy.
- Make a Memory Map using Praying in Color techniques.
- Create a Liturgy of Lament (see below)
- Use paper or stones to express one’s feelings.
- (Individually): Write a regret, lament, intention on paper or stone
- (For a group): Reflect on the stages/steps/memories of your time together: earliest memory of the group, achievements, anecdotes, challenge faced, how they currently feel, what they are missing/grieving, a hope for the group or individual
- Dissolve or burn paper, build a path or cairn with the stones
- Individuals go to their church property separately, add their stone/paper to create a large display, path, etc. Photo the finished installation.
- Stepping-stones of one’s faith journey from “yesterday to today” using construction paper footprints (templates could be provided online and/or mailed out to individuals to use) and then added (one at a time following a schedule) to an installation outside your church building such as a sidewalk or covered walkway.
Creating a Liturgy of Lament
A lament is a feeling or expression of deep sorrow or mourning of a loss or death. Many individuals and families are mourning the loss of rites of passage that will not occur in the ways that had been expected with “pomp and circumstance,” parties, and the gathering of family and friends for celebration. All of us need a means to express our thoughts in tangible ways. Below are ideas on how to create a Liturgy of Lament, with the hopes that young people will be invited to participate in the crafting of any such liturgy.
It is only after we lament, after we face and express the pain and negativity and get it all out, that healing can begin. Theologically, by facing and going through death (Good Friday), and waiting (Holy Saturday), we can come to new life, to resurrection (Easter).
A template for writing a lament – this is the formula that should be followed using scripture, prayer, sharing thoughts, etc.
- Turn to God
- Bring your complaint
- Ask boldly for help
- Choose to trust in God
Examples to tap into:
• Cry to God: Psalm 44:24-26; Psalm 13:2-3
• Prayer in Anger: Psalm 79:6, 10, 12; Psalm 92:2-4
• Personal Affliction: Psalm 25:16-20
• Trust in God: Psalm 85:8-10; Psalm 4:7-9
A template for a Liturgy of Lament:
- Prayers of Lament
- Scripture or other reading
- Reflection/Offering: This could include one of the experiences noted above using paper or stones, an individual’s offering of memories (their senior year, their hopes for the future, etc.)
- Commissioning: Sending forth with new hopes for the future
- Prayers of thanks
- Hymn: It is Well with My Soul sung by TenTwoSix Music Group (an online cell phone choir in Nashville)
- Song: How Long from Lamentations released March 1, 2016. Words and music by Isaac Wardell.
Download the full pdf of these Ideas & Resources for Lament and Thanksgiving. This includes all the ideas above as well as a compilation of prayers, scripture, liturgies, and processes that have been shared by many for church or individual usage. If you would also like, there is a google doc of the material which you can download and then adapt to your own context. We give thanks to all the publishers, authors, and organizations who have given permission to share these resources.
Sharon Ely Pearson recently retired as Editor & Christian Formation Specialist with Church Publishing Incorporated (CPI) with 35+ years of experience in Christian formation on the local, judicatory, and church-wide level. Known for her knowledge of the variety of published curricula across the Church, she has also had her hand in the birthing of numerous books, including the best-seller, Call on Me: A Prayer Book for Young People and the 6-book series of Faithful Celebrations: Making Time for God. A graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary (2003) and a lifelong Episcopalian, she lives in Norwalk, Connecticut with her husband John, a 17.5 lb. cat named Shadow, and Chobe, a 7-year-old, tennis-ball-fetching, rescue black lab. They have two adult children (both teachers) and a 5-year-old granddaughter who is a budding environmental activist. Follow her at www.rowsofsharon.com.