Grief, Loss and Hope in Uncertain Times

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by Rev Michelle Scott-Huffman

The months since we first became aware of a global pandemic have been hard on us. Many of us have faced great loss in the absence of the usual markers, rituals, and spaces that help us to process grief and loss. As we look ahead with continued uncertainty, it can feel hopeless, but there is hope and healing available now. Khalil Gibran wrote in The Prophet “The deeper sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” This message will explore paths for healing in this time that honor our grief and sorrow and wind hopefully toward healing and joy.

In this All Souls Day Service, we will remember loved ones who have departed from us in the last year. In addition, the music and message being shared explore themes of loss and grief. We recognize that for many people, grief looks and feels different in the midst of uncertainty and isolation, so we wanted to make you aware of this content before we get started. Please do what you need to care for yourself, and don’t hesitate to reach out to Rev. Michelle or members of the Pastoral Care Committee if you’d like to talk about your own grief, or anything else.

Our opening words this morning are “Lay it Down” by Rev Joan Javier-Duval

here is where you can lay it down
Lay down all that you have carried
the weight of the world that has rounded your back
leaving you aching and exhausted

here is where healing begins
where burdens are set down
and alongside one another’s
their magnitude does not seem as great

here is where the door is thrown open and the light can lift away the shadows and what was hidden can now be seen

Here is where you can rest
Where nothing is expected
But that you bring all of who you are
Into the presence of the holy and of this loving community.

Til I Get Old

Words and Music by Paul Phariss
Performed by Rebecca Holt and Paul Phariss
Used with Permission

Content note: The music and other elements of this service deal with death, grief, and loss.

Paul wrote this song after the death of his first wife many years ago and was gracious enough to share it with us for All Souls Sunday and gave permission to share the lyrics here. They are linked below. We’re excited and grateful to hear music from Paul and Rebecca any time, and we’re especially excited that they may have found some technology work-arounds to allow us to hear them LIVE this Sunday. Don’t miss this!

Last Time I Saw You

Words and Music by Paul Phariss
Performed by Rebecca Holt and Paul Phariss
Used with Permission

This is another wonderful song that Paul wrote about the loss of his first wife and we’re grateful he and Rebecca are willing to share this for All Souls Sunday.

Precious Memories

Words and Music by JBF Wright
Public Domain Work
Performed by Rebecca Holt and Paul Phariss

This is a well-known and well-loved song among many folks who grew up in the US. It dates from 1925, which makes it just barely usable under public domain copyright laws. That tidbit made my heart sing when Paul and Rebecca suggested performing it for All Souls Sunday. An interesting history on the work is available here.
May the precious memories of all those we have loved and lost be a comfort to us, both this Sunday, and always. Our heartfelt thanks to Paul and Rebecca for sharing it with us.

Wayfaring Stranger

Public Domain Work
Performed by Rebecca Holt and Paul Phariss

This is an American folk song that doesn’t have any clear origins, likely because it originated in a time when no one bothered much with written music and copyright for folk music. Some estimates have this song as being over 200 years old, and like all folk songs, it has many variations of style, melody shape, and lyrics floating around out there. It’s even known under several variations on the title. You can read a bit more about what we do know about it here.

A particularly haunting, evocative version is available here. I came across this recording as I was learning more about the background on this piece and it’s well worth taking a moment to appreciate this beautiful, raw vocal performance.

This song is particularly appropriate to All Souls because no matter your theology about where we came from and where we’re going, we do all know we’re sharing this journey together and this human lifespan is truly a blip on the radar of all existence. We’re all “wayfaring” here together, sharing our grief and loss. I’m glad you are not strangers, however, and in this community, we can be fully seen and supported as we make these journeys.

Our closing words are “The Broken World Awaits,” by L.R. Knost

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.

Categories: Sermon