It’s Okay to Grieve

by | Apr 6, 2020 | News

I was struck by Ray Jones’ devotion on Wednesday as forty or so leaders gathered from across the PC(USA) to talk about evangelism in the age of pandemic. He named what many of us have been feeling.

As he got behind the wheel to travel to Marietta, Georgia, to rejoin his wife Judy at their family home, he was struggling with allergies. The sneezes wouldn’t stop, and he had a tickle in his throat. Even though he recognized his symptoms as purely seasonal, he couldn’t help but worry if it was something more, especially when he thought about Judy’s asthma and her compromised condition. Finally, he said to himself, “Drive. Just drive.”

Before he began his reflection on 2 Corinthians 4:5-15, he named something that was important for

The Rev. Dr. Ray Jones III
PC(USA) Director of Theology, Formation & Evangelism

me to hear. He had been talking to a therapist friend about his feelings of free-floating anxiety, but instead of sending him an article on anxiety, she sent him one on grieving.

That’s when it struck me. It’s not only anxiety we are dealing with these days—how the virus will spread, how many people will die, whether there will be an economy left standing after the virus is contained, etc.—but grief.

He said, “I’m making the best of things while staying at home but I’m grieving not seeing my colleagues in person.  I’m grieving that I can’t just go down the hall anymore and see Carlton or Monique or Kathryn and have one of them ask, ‘How are you doing?’ and then we have a good conversation around how we are all doing.”

And then he added something else, which resonated with me deeply. He said, “What hit me, also, is that I’m grieving a style of leadership with which I was once comfortable but now feels uncomfortable. I’m so accustom to meeting in person and being with people that I’ve been slow to this ‘virtual presence’ and ‘virtual community’ way of being with each other.  It’s just very difficult learning to lead in a different way.”

He went on, “So, I’m putting that before you. I believe it’s okay to grieve what we’ve lost. I believe we do have this treasure in our frail bodies, but thankfully also as the Body of Christ, which makes our witness all the more extraordinary just as the Apostle Paul writes, “the extraordinary power we possess belongs to God and does not come from us.”

To hear Ray’s whole devotion and, indeed, the conversation about effective evangelism in the age of pandemic, you may find it at this link (provided by the Vital Congregations Initiative of the Presbyterian Mission Agency). Also, as a member of Los Ranchos, you are invited every Wednesday at Noon for a conversation on the “Seven Marks of Vital Congregations” hosted by the VCI national staff. I think you will agree that these conversations are filled with excellent ideas and practices to increase your church’s vitality during such a time as this.