In a rural village in Malawi, East Africa, I experienced the power of communal lament. When someone died, the women in the community would stop everything and start to wail. Neighboring villagers could hear the grief-stricken sound from far away and join the mourning. Taking on an outward, physical manifestation of grief helped people move through it. It cued emotional release. It was cathartic.
“As Jesus approached Jerusalem, knowing it had become a disobedient and fractured community, he lamented” (Matthew 23:37).
On the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus shut down–the day that I announced that our church building would close indefinitely–a group of 20 people gathered for a drum circle outside our church’s narthex. Our leader encouraged us to put our emotions onto the surface of the drum. At one point, tears poured out of me, along with grief, sorrow, anger, and pain.
I thought of Jesus crying with a desire to gather his people. I knew that we had released something important. Jesus did gather us together, and our sorrow would not remain forever. There was lament. There was catharsis. And then, there was peace.
This message is excerpted from “Lamenting together” by Sarah S. Scherschligt in the April 2021 Café online magazine.
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