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This week’s COVID-19 death milestone leads Christian leaders to pray

Member communions of the National Council of Churches pray, offer words of hope

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Member communions of the National Council of Churches contributed to “Words of Comfort, Prayers for the People,” a 21-minute video released on YouTube and Facebook on Wednesday.

“I sincerely hope,” said the Rev. Dr. Jim Winkler, the NCC’s president and general secretary, “this is the last major milestone we’ll need to mark.”

The NCC video features the prayers of denominational leaders and pastors and concludes with words of hope from the NCC’s chief operating officer, the Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland Tune.

“Send your healing power to this land and throughout the Earth,” said Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Presiding Bishop of the Fifth Episcopal District in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, “that this virus may not have the victory but that we will always look to you as our source and our strength.”

The Rev. Dr. Michael Livingston is interim senior minister at The Riverside Church in New York City.

The Rev. Dr. Michael Livingston, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) pastor serving as the interim senior minister at The Riverside Church in New York City, asked God for “the wisdom, courage and strength to do our part to care for one another and keep one another safe. Lift those who suffer from the fear of death, from beds of discomfort to the new light of day, to the joy of simple pleasures: good work and holy communion in the one human family in which we all belong.”

“God of all who lives and breathes: What words work now that over 500,000 Americans have died from a single virus?” asked the Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. “Do we call this grief? Trauma? Despair? Can we speak to you of anger and pain and emptiness as this virus steals the breath from so many?”

“Every word fails,” Dorhauer told the Almighty. “Listen then not to our tears, our trembles, our tossing and turning through another sleepless night, our sighs too deep for words. Quiet the rage embodied in our shivers of grief, our spasms of anguish and our shudders of fear. End this nightmare, this scourge, this deathly infestation and abide with us through our season of mourning.”

The Rev. Dr. Gina M. Stewart is senior pastor at Christ Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee.

“For the families of the 500,000 dead, there’s no medicine, no vaccine or inoculation for the pain that the bereaved suffered because of the loss of their loved ones,” said the Rev. Dr. Gina M. Stewart, senior pastor of Christ Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. “It is only fitting and appropriate to pause and remember those suffering around the world. May their hearts be encouraged by the words of the psalmist, that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted.”

The NCC’s Copeland Tune concluded the prayer time with a message of hope.

The Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland Tune is chief operating officer for the National Council of Churches.

“It has been a tough season of grief, lament and mourning, but we are not alone,” Copeland Tune said. “Our faith reminds us that God is with us and will never leave us or forsake us regardless of what we go through. We also have each other.”

“We hope this time of prayer has blessed and encouraged you. We also hope you will join us as we continue to pray for one another … knowing that God hears our cries and will answer.”

“May God cover us and keep us, establish us and fortify us,” Copeland Tune said, “both now in our hour of great need and in the days to come.”

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