Churches Are Putting the ‘Hospital’ Back in Hospitality

Churches Are Putting the ‘Hospital’ Back in Hospitality by CLARISSA MOLL | for Christianity Today

COVID-era congregations are finding better ways to minister to their grieving parishioners and neighbors.

In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jane Waln waited at home as her husband declined in hospice, restricted from visitors by lockdown.

She’d lovingly nursed Dennis through the years as dementia stole him from her, but new health protocols were undermining her hopes for the end she thought they would be able to face together.

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When Jane returned to church after Dennis’s death in the summer of 2020, she found no hands reaching out to hold her in her time of sorrow.

Overwhelmed by a maelstrom of pandemic, social, and political struggles, the congregation that had supported her through her many years of caregiving seemed bewildered about what to do next. She was disappointed by how her journey of grief differed from what she had expected due to her church’s pandemic-oriented hesitation.

Yet while isolated grief and impersonal responses may have been the norm two years ago, many local churches are responding with increased skill to the challenges of pandemic loss.

Many pastors, concerned that experiences like Jane’s would replicate, have mobilized congregational care support—enlisting a growing number of parachurch ministries to come alongside their churches and guide hurting parishioners toward life beyond their struggles.

And so while in-person attendance may have dropped 6 percent over the last two years, local churches are arguably providing better care for their congregations than ever before.

In 2019 when COVID-19 was quietly developing in Asia, I became a widow myself. The sum of my most intimate experience with grief has occurred under the cloud of pandemic concern. Like Jane, I struggled to discern where my grief could fit in a congregation already burdened by so many other sorrows.

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