Calling spiritual doctors in the land and in God’s house who can write a theological prescription that helps raise the people of God up from beds of affliction and disposability so that they might walk again.
North and South Carolinians as Americans around the nation wrestle with unimaginable grief from the overwhelming and devastating socio-spiritual losses from the corona virus. Victims of this pandemic die in hospital beds alone because they are forced to make a choice between dying alone or infecting other members of their families with this deadly virus. Families must choose between holding the hands of a dying relative who is both beloved and a carrier of this disease or spreading the disease to their family members because they visited the bedside of their relatives. Food lines in cities throughout the country stretch blocks. Many children go hungry because they no longer have the security of school breakfasts and lunches. Seniors are dying at an alarming rate in nursing homes. They face death alone without friends or family to say goodbye. These excruciating examples offer just a small snapshot of the suffering that grips the nation.
North and South Carolina face escalating casualties. In North Carolina, the latest data show that 213 people have died from illnesses related to COVID-19. There are 6,951 confirmed cases of the disease.
In South Carolina, 135 people have died from illness related to COVID-19. There are 4,608 documented confirmed cases of the disease. The number of cases is expected to rise to 8,000 by May.
In each of these states owing to longstanding racial injustice in the corporate medical industrial complex, Black communities are disproportionately suffering and dying from corona virus.
Every day in North and South Carolina brings painful and mounting reminders and evidence from nursing homes to work sites of accumulated and growing bad news. The socio-spiritual and economic magnitude and reach of this pandemic opens up deep and lingering holes in our collective soul. Yet, we lack a time or process to pause, name, feel and contextualize our individual and collective losses and grief.
The people cry out, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” I know that you hear this cry rising out of your congregations. It is a sound that transcends the racial walls that keep us separated from each other during church hours on Sunday. Our common suffering, grief and blows transcend our brokenness. Instead, it bounds us together on common ground. Whether we live in a red state or blue state, none of us is exempt from the socio-spiritual ravages and desolation of this humanitarian crisis.
We are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis that exacts multiple collective losses. In unison, Christians of all colors ask, “how long, how long?” They feel that their cries land on hard hearts and need to know that they are not alone especially now as we shelter alone in our homes, in prisons, on streets or on work sites without protection.
In such a time as this, the people hunger for a collective hymn or chant that expresses our grief and losses in this desolate season. Community, we need folk hymns and sacred chants that hollow out each line from our collective moans, fear, and grief as well as our collective resilience and will to overcome.
Because our hearts break with the people, I have been thinking a lot about the need for a collective Day of Mourning, Celebration and Reaffirmation for North and South Carolinians in particular, and the nation universally. I imagine this day as a time and space at the end of May. We will gather as one body of Christ on social media. A multiracial, intergenerational committee comprised of United Methodist pastors, congregants and youth leaders in rural and urban North and South Carolina will organize this interfaith day of mourning, celebration, and reaffirmation.
It will be a day of pragmatic optimism where we name and eulogize our dead, celebrate the dedication, commitment and sacrifice of volunteers and workers who risk their lives in this pandemic to serve others and to save lives. Additionally, on this day we will reaffirm our common connection to each other. In preparation for the day, we will build a wailing wall where people can memorialize family, friends, and neighbors with a memorial stone that they create.
Let me end by sharing good news with you. The South has a rendezvous with destiny and a season of grace, reconciliation, and atonement because of the new demographic landscape. It offers a new beginning for the sons and daughters of enslavers and those enslaved to join together to upbuild brick by brick a dynamic new world that frees churches and society at last from the death grip of racism and the culture of Whiteness.
Let us not let this moment pass us by. The opportunity is here for us to make a new story between Christians of all colors in a land wounded and bloodied by a past where far too many White Christians stood on the wrong side of history. However, we are not entrapped in this history. We can build a new one with each other. What better time than now? What better place to begin than with a common project that unites us all? If you agree, will you volunteer for this moment of reconciliation, reparation, recapitalization, restoration, redemption, and resurrection? Even with plates that seem full, are you willing to say, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”
I look forward to talking with you.