What started off as a rather simple idea to offer an online space for people to share their grief in words and pictures – anonymously if they prefer – has taken off in ways Church Mission Society didn’t expect.
As the country struggles to adjust to physical distancing measures and devastating headlines, CMS’s Lamentspace has resonated with a nation that is anxious, confused, upset and searching for hope.
Scores of people older and younger have posted candidly expressed fears, anxieties, questions and prayers, ranging from personal to community to global concerns. Some examples of laments include: “I am finding it so difficult to pray at this time”, “My children miss their friends”, “My heart cries for refugees…”, “I am angry, God…”
“When you look at it altogether, what you see is a raw, honest gallery of grief,” said Naomi Steinberg, CMS head of communications, adding, “Christians aren’t always very good at grieving, either alone or together and so I’m grateful we’ve been able to provide what seems to be a much-needed outlet for lament at this time.”
Lamentspace continues the theme of ‘Lament for Lent’ that CMS first introduced in February with its Lent resource, ‘Only With Eyes That Have Cried’, the work of theologian and missiologist Dr Cathy Ross. Steinberg said, “When we first produced the Lament for Lent resource, we felt there was much to be sad about in our world, much to bring before God. Little did we know how events would unfold.” Even before coronavirus started to spread in the UK, the subject had struck a nerve: more than a thousand people ordered copies of Lament for Lent by Ash Wednesday.
And as Holy Week commences, the subject of lament is bound to grow more prevalent. Steinberg says she was “surprised and moved” that Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford have chosen to use Lamentspace prayers in their online Easter Eve Vigil Rumours of Hope. Diocesan Canon Precentor for Christ Church, the Rev Canon Dr Grant Bayliss, said, “At a time like this we need our faith to be grounded not glossy. That’s something CMS have been doing for over 200 years and #lamentspace shares a raw honesty before God that I think many will find helpful. We’re delighted to be praying through that together on Easter Eve, as we listen for ‘Rumours of Hope.’”
The aim of Lament for Lent is for people, having lamented before God, to arrive at a place of hope, newness, justice and innovation. Alastair Bateman, CEO of Church Mission Society, said; “We hope that by encouraging people to be real with God and each other about their grief, hope and love will be released in our nation and our world.”