“Grief is a sign that we loved something more than ourselves” – Joan Chittiser
It’s been a devastating couple of weeks, and you may find that a number of young people in your community are grieving, or need the space to grieve over the fires that have left hundred’s dead, communities homeless and our landscape scarred. There’s almost no way that people could have avoided the images and news of the fires as our televisions and radio broadcasters have delivered them straight to our doors, for those of us in Australia this is a tragedy that will be a part of our memories for many years.
A number of people have put together resources to help your communities talk and grieve, for some of our communities there won’t be the need for talk and the silence of a people in deep grief and shock will require a space to just be in God’s presence. I’m sending out this special email so that you too may be informed of the resources out there to help you discuss, grieve, sit in silence, ask questions and be in community with the young people you’re in ministry with. Some people may be angry, others may be numb, some may be upset, others may be affected by the events directly or indirectly, feel free to adapt and play with these resources as you need.
I’m aware that while there have been massive fires in Victoria the northern areas of the country have also been hammered with storms and floods, you may find that a number of these resources are adaptable to help people talk through these tragic events as well.
I pray that these resources assist you in your ministry over the coming weeks.
I’m reminded of a book titled “The Grief Book” by Elizabeth Vercoe when she defines grief as:
For me, grief is a lot of different things.
It is that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that you go to sleep with and wake up with.
It is the tears rolling down your face as you wash the dishes, walk down the street or sip a cappuccino.
It is not being able to say what you want to say.
It is wishing that you were somewhere else; never being comfortable anywhere.
It is clutching and grasping at memories.
It is violent mood swings – kicking the kitchen cupboard with all your strength and then weeping uncontrollably curled up on the floor.
It is screaming and wailing into your cornflakes.
It is long walks to nowhere in particular.
It is endless cups of tea and visitors.
It is going to the driving range and belting 200 golf balls.
It is scatteredness. the inability to concentrate and the need to do something all the time – or vica versa.
It is not remembering where you’ve been lately.
It is hysterical laughter at inappropriate times.
It is obsession with cleanliness or cake baking.
It is overwhelming.
It is never-ending.
It is everything.
It is impossible.
She goes on to say that…
Ultimately, each of us experiences grief in our own personal way. We are all unique. No two people can live exactly the same life. The tapestry that we each weave is as unique as our footprints and our smiles. The grief that I describe may not be your grief. There’s one thing I know for certain – grief is a doorway to be stepped through. (pages 5 and 6)
I’ve put together a list of resources created by people in the church that may be able to help you and your community grieve and reflect on the last few days. You’re more than welcome to pinch, steal, adapt, use and pass on any of these resources. Thankyou to those people out there who have been writing, thinking, praying and responding in this way.
Before you do go and download any of these resources though, here are a few things to think through.
- It may be too early to throw more images at people, we’ve seen a lot of images recently and perhaps now may not be the time to see any more. Simple reflections and a safe space for all is probably a good way to go.
- Everyone grieves differently, some people may be angry that they don’t feel anything and some people may feel angry that others aren’t grieving enough. Whatever you do don’t expect people to grieve in the same way, and, stress that whatever you do needs to be a safe place for those who are present.
- Now’s not the time for answers, but it’s always time for questions, don’t feel the need to provide answers to people’s questions, if someone wants to ask “where is God in this?” don’t feel uncomfortable and think you need to answer the question.
- We can affirm that God is
- We can affirm that peoples experiences and emotions are real
- It may not be appropriate to use candles, or any images of flames, think through other alternatives, perhaps use water or paint.
- You may need to grieve, and feel the need to express your own grief, don’t be afraid to voice your own questions, but be aware of those around you that are also grieving. Make sure you have people around you and the community that can assist with the task of keeping the space safe and young people looked after. Sometimes it’s ok for the young people to look after you, or to see that you’re in grief as well, just be aware of it and your need for support and prayer.
So, the list of resources to help you over the coming weeks:
Adrian Greenwood has put together a simple process of Lament, Name and Respond.
‘Lament’ starts where we are – during this time we remember all that causes us hurt, all that once was and now is forever different. This time allows us to express our anger and questions to God. We join with Jesus crying out from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken us.”
It is hoped that by being reminded of the suffering of Jesus we will be reminded that in such times of devastation God draws near to comfort, as One who in Jesus, shares the pain of creation. Please avoid ‘rushing to the resurrection’ and trying to make everything neat and finished – that time is yet to come.
In these spaces and weeks people need to name the pain, shout at God and hopefully, meet our healing/suffering God there. Give God and people the space for healing.
You can access the resource over at: http://morepraxis.org.au/enough
“In The Ashes”
Cheryl Lawrie’s put together a worship space that she shall be curating in Melbourne this weekend, she’s kindly put the service and stations together online for groups to access and use in their own communities.
Only a couple of the spaces are interactive – we figure people are looking for space and silence, rather than to do things. Each of the spaces will have cushions, etc, so people can stay there a while. We only have vague ideas about how all the spaces will look yet, so what’s below is mostly describing context and words. We are using limited images of people – the media have perfected the use of people as tools of manipulation, there’s no need for us to replicate that.
Cheryl has also put up a number of other resources, thoughts and prayers on her blog that you may be able to read through for use, just look through the last few days of her posts for them.
“After the Fire” – Liturgical resources
“Carrying Rainbows of Hope: Liturgical resources for use after disasters and personal tragedies” Edited by Philip Liebelt
Ash Wednesday Commemorative Service …..
Other Worship resources for use after Bushfires …
A Liturgy for a Community in Shock of grief after Violence or Accident
(Adaptible for a Bushfire situation) ……
Article: Preparing a Liturgy in response to a Disaster …
Article: Sunday Worship after the Furnace …
Article: Killing the Fire Dragon…
I’ve uploaded this to the youth leader mail list file space along with a supplement to the resource by Chris Barnett from the Centre for Theology and Ministry in Victoria.
Pumphouse Blog Reflections
Rob Hanks from the NSW Youth Unit’s blog has a number of thoughts and reflections that may be of use in helping people think about music, video, images and prayers in worship and youth ministry.
He’s put together a collection of thoughts on his blog to help people think through some of the events over the last few days including a liturgy by Dorothy McRae McMahon. I pinched a couple of his thoughts for the introduction to this email.
Lectionary Song Blog
Natalie Sims has put together a list of songs and hymns that may be helpful for communities wanting to reflect on the last few days
In the wake of the Victorian bushfires and the climbing death toll, I offer this list of songs of lament that I hope will be useful for churches and faith communities grieving this week, and for others looking for songs to sing in the face of great distress.
“Worship & Prayer Resources following a natural disaster such as Bushfires in Australia”
Textweek.com have put together a huge list of resources for communities working through natural disasters, many of the resources have been updates to assist with reflecting on the bushfires in Australia.