Worship resources commemorating one million COVID deaths

05.11.22 | Wellness and Missions

    We have crossed a threshold that we all knew was looming but prayed would not materialize. The thought that one million souls have been lost to this pandemic is unfathomable. The loss is felt in every community across our nation without regard to status. It has pierced the heart of every family and impacted us in ways we didn’t think possible. The losses were compounded by our inability to gather in sacred spaces to hold one another as we wept. As we are able, I pray that we will gather and hold one another in this thin place. May this resource assist in planning services, memorials, silent vigils or other creative ways of acknowledging our shared grief, but also inspiring our unrelenting hope. Our hope is anchored in the Lord who has given us life everlasting. Blessings and Peace -- Bishop LaTrelle Easterling

    Worship resources commemorating the one million people in the United States who have died from Covid-19

    “From the end of the earth, I call to you,
    when my heart is overwhelmed.
    Lead me to the rock
    that is higher than I,
    for you are my refuge.” -Psalm 61:2-3a (NRSV)

    As a nation, we are quickly approaching the threshold of more than 1 million COVID deaths in the United States. We are an interconnected people created in the image of God, the image of perfect love. Globally and domestically, we invite you to pause and recognize the lives of our beloved human family impacted by COVID-19 and its variants. From whom do we seek refuge and strength? We seek strength and help from our Creator. Let us comfort one another as empowered by God’s Spirit, do all within our power to do no harm, do good and stay in love with God.  The BWC's Wellness and Mission Board offers the following thoughts and worship resources, with Dr. Richard Gillum; Rev. Laura Tingley, the board chair; and Thea Becton, the board's staff person. 

    A Litany of Suffering, Resilience, and Remembrance

    One Voice: Approximately one million people have now died in the United States from the COVID 19 pandemic. In death as in life, each person is made in the image of God. God knows every name, voice, and every face even when they may be unknown to each of us.

    All: God, in your mercy, receive our prayers. 

    One Voice: Together, they join the estimated 15 million globally who have died from the effects of the pandemic. We miss them among us and this number is overwhelming. We know that this number does not reflect the millions more of your children who suffer long-term effects of COVID-19 illness, those who lost parents and providers, or the 2 million orphaned children whose parents have died, or surviving partners and siblings. 

    All: God, in your mercy, speak through prayers.

    One Voice:  This does not account for the many millions who have lived on to mourn and remember the lives of their beloved or those who today strive to rebuild a more equitable, diverse, inclusive, and grace-formed Beloved Community. As we advocate for increased health care access as a basic human need and right, an end to systemic economic disparities, and a refusal to collude in racist scapegoating that blames COVID 19 on Asians and Asian Americans, grant us your courage to speak out and to enact change, O God.

    All: God, in your mercy breath us into action. 

    One Voice: For those of us who remain to tell their stories, carry on their visions, care for their loved ones, and be present with and for one another, Christ, have mercy.   

    All: God, in your mercy, bring us all to life eternal. Amen. 

    Invitation to Commemorate the One Million who have Died and All who Love Them

    We invite you and your congregation to select a time to lift up the names of those who have died and remember their stories. Remember those who are part of our nation’s extended communities. Recall whose voices have not been heard and whose life stories have been discounted. 

    How will you and your congregation remember those who have died during this pandemic? What are some ways through music, image, and scripture they can be remembered?  What stories will we share within congregations, with our youth and children? 

    Congregations may want to honor those who died by lighting candles, ringing bells, pouring water, offering a special holy Communion service, gathering stones, planting flowers in their honor, or asking who in our community is most vulnerable still and trying to meet their unmet needs. 

    Below are several resources to help track the number who have died as related to this pandemic and resources for reflection through pictures and videos. Included are select prayers and a litany for use in your personal reflection and congregational liturgies appropriate. As you develop your own commemorations, please share them with us at .  – The Wellness and Missions Board of the BWC

    Pandemic Resources for Reflection
    A Litany for the One Million People who have Died of COVID-19

    We breathe a deep silent prayer.

    God of Sarah and Abraham, Rebecca and Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael, Rachel and Jacob,  and the multitude of saints who surround us; you hold beginnings and endings and are our eternal home: even as the world has changed and we pass at times, overwrought through many doors;  anxious over physical examinations and vaccinations; insecure about lack of access to health care; pressured by employment and underemployment; weary from coping with school closures and distanced education and delayed rest and play; and heartbroken over ones we have loved and whose lives we have let go; we honor each soul who has returned to you and surrounded by your grace we count the dead;

    We breathe a deep silent prayer.

    As the ones become tens, tens become hundreds, hundreds become thousands, thousands become one hundred thousand, And now one million. We remember each who has processed agitation in body and spirit;  lived on the fragile edge of slowed breath, distressed and seeking solace;  We hold loved ones near and at a distance; medical staff, hospital workers, caregivers who risk contact who suffered their own loss of life; teachers, who worry about their charges and colleagues who have died; faithful congregations who have remembered the dead; frontline workers, farmers, shop workers, cleaners and all who have given up their lives to keep the nation provisioned.  One million is a number beyond any one of us and so, we pray for people who suffered alone; we pray for people rejected and marginalized,  we pray for people who have sought solidarity over national discord. As ones became tens, tens became hundreds, hundreds become thousands, thousands become one hundred thousand, And now one million.

    We breathe a deep silent prayer.

    We offer our long journey for the one and the many as we live into a different future; wherein our fear, groans, sorrows, and joy, seeing our humanity you receive us;  and in your divinity, when our faith wavers and we are weary, you carry us. We entrust to your compassion and care each who still mourns; that we who survive for a little more time on this earth may cultivate, a harmonious striving for your righteousness and Beloved community; abundant in heart, mind, speech, and acts of grace. God most merciful and compassionate, in your name we pray.

    – By Rev. Neal Christie, Baltimore-Washington Conference   

    Prayers for a time of pandemic gathered by Discipleship Ministries, Nashville, TN  
    A Plea for Healing, Strength, and Hope 

    Our Lord and our God:

    We humbly come before you this morning in the strong name of Jesus, recognizing that you are the God of all possibilities. We greet you in this moment of great need this morning, remembering that you are our Savior who taught us to come to you when we are weak and heavy ladened, and you will grant us rest. Well, Lord, we come to you weak and heavy, burdened by everything that is COVID-19. Please hear our voices and give us rest.

    We are family members who have lost loved ones near and dear to the virus. We are friends who’ve lost close companions to this sickness. We are individuals who’ve tested positive, seeking to weather the shame of it all, let alone get well. We are weak and we are burdened. Please hear our voices, Lord, and give us rest.

    We are those working the front lines while others stay home. We are healthcare workers treating sickness and seeing death every day. We are grocery and drug store workers nervous about going to work. We are teachers exhausted from virtual learning, and terrified of having to give instruction in person. We are weak and we are burdened. Please hear our voices, Jesus, and give us rest.

    We are parents, juggling the demands of our virtual or in-person job while living with the pressures of keeping our kids engaged with virtual education. We are parents sending our kids to school, worried about safety in the classroom. We are youth, caught up in the middle of it all, separated from school and friends, trying to do our best, worn out and frustrated by it all. We are those who are by ourselves, lonely and depressed, in need of just a touch. We are weak and we are burdened. Please hear our voices, God, and give us rest.

    Please hear our voices this morning, Abba. We confess our sins at the root of all of this. Would you hear our pleas for healing, feel our yearnings for forgiveness, and rejoice in our pleas for restoration? We come unto you, Lord, asking for comfort in loss, healing in illness, protection from this plague, and the termination of this pandemic. We come unto you, Lord. 

    For you alone can comfort. You alone can heal. You alone can provide strength. You alone can save. You alone can deliver. Please hear our voices, O Lord. You alone can give us rest. And you will.

    Please hear our voices, Jesus. We hear you. And we trust you, as we await your mercies and thank God for your grace. AMEN.

    – By Joseph W. Daniels, Jr., lead pastor of Emory UMC  in Washington, D.C.

    God heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds (Psalm 147:3, CEB)

    God, you sent us medical doctors, nurses, med techs, sanitation workers, and first responders to be extensions of your healing hands. We thank you for their gifts and their sacrifice. All over the world, these brave souls are hurting because of all of the losses they have seen. Shift after shift, they have done all that they could to heal, yet some of their patients don’t make it home. They are tired. They are burned out. They are brokenhearted. They leave their place of work and have to live in a makeshift room or an uninviting hotel room. They can see their family only through Zoom, Teams, or FaceTime.

    Lord, they are wounded. They are exhausted. They feel alone. Their hearts are aching.

    We ask that you refresh their minds. Ignite a fire in their souls. Please pour out a shower of love to revive their wounded and aching hearts. They are your vessels of hope. They are your warriors called to fight an unyielding enemy. Grant them the courage to face another long shift. Give them the strength and wisdom to fight for us. Lord, heal their broken hearts. Lord, comfort them. Reassure them that you are with them always.

     In Your Name, we pray, Amen.

    – By Stephon Void, Certified Lay Servant in the South Carolina Annual Conference and member of New Covenant United Methodist Church in Bowman, South Carolina.

    A Prayer of Waiting

    Here we are again,
    Engaged in the eerie silence of waiting.
    Waiting in our homes,
    Only venturing outside among others with the
    Blood-on-our-doorposts mask required for egress.
    Waiting, like the paralytic
    For the moving of unseen waters.

    Sleeping, and rising to wait some more.
    Never quite knowing when the bad dream will end,
    And hoping at dream’s end that by some miracle
    We might wake to the company of friends
    Stolen in the mist, disappeared.
    Unmourned at their burial
    With no opportunity to don my one good black dress
    And join the funeral march with the family
    Because they already had more than the restricted ten breathing bodies
    Closer to the Dearly Departed, than I.

    Stuck in a Groundhog Day loop of waiting,
    Wondering how others are bearing the wait,
    The wait for test results, some of them COVID, most of them anxious.
    The wait on the front line in Louisville, Portland, or some untelevised city,
    Teachers and nurses waiting,
    Or my neighbors, in the unemployment line.
    And the long line for food
    That stretches around the block and might just close before they get to her.
    (And you, praying that the landlord won’t set out your stuff before you get back with a fistful of dollars.)

     A Groundhog Day repeat that resets at dawn tomorrow.
    My mind drifts to thoughts of how my Cloud of Witness Ancestors waited
    Waited in overcrowded, under furnished shacks for some Harriet Tubman or Nat Turner to appear.
    Waited for Death himself to wake them from the bad dreams they were living and take them back home.
    How Emancipation slaves in Texas waited on a New Years’ Eve Watchnight that stretched all the way to Juneteenth Day.
    I am only one great-grandmother removed from that wait.
    When I come to myself, I am back in my COVID-free cave,
    Still waiting, in this wait.
    No one knows how long it might be.
    Lord, please sit alongside us all in the dust and the ashes,
    As we wait.

    – By Safiyah Fosua, a retired associate professor of the Wesley Seminary of Marion, Indiana, and retired Elder from the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.