Notes from our DRE April 2021

Grieving in Public

Dr. Allan Georgia, Director of Religious Education

Hello UUCC Members & Friends!

Most religious traditions involve expressions of
lament––public grief aimed to be heard by god
and others in order to express a sense of outrage
and real emotion. This isn’t measured speech ––
this is verbalized trauma, and an emotional
explosion that what has happened
is unacceptable. Job, having lost all of his
possessions and his entire family, exclaims a
lament. Jesus weeps in the Gospel of John,
expressing lament at the death of Lazarus. In the
Qur’an and in several Islamic hadith, Hagar, the
mother of Ishmael, laments while desperately
looking for water for her son. Lament is a form
of protest expression, and it can powerfully call
out injustice and harm when it is oriented
especially to those who are most in power.

For the past few weeks, I was fortunate to share
a space with a group of UUCC members chatting
about themes of lament and public grief in an
adult RE class that just wrapped up. It was
fascinating, revealing, humbling and profound
to talk with UUs about the way that lamentation
might factor into our own religious expressions. I
continue to be curious about ways we might
incorporate expressions of lament into UU
worship and social justice work. But it was very
helpful to get the conversation started with some
really interesting insights and ideas about how
we might get started. I learned so much and had
so much to think about from what we discussed!

One of the things we shared was the experience
around personal grief and how restrained and
restrictive we all tend to feel when something
happens in our lives. It is difficult to put a finger
on exactly how this happens, but sometimes
when we grieve, our real sense is to weep and
wail. And that is not a part of most of our rituals
around death. Do we have to be so restrained?
What would happen if we gave ourselves and
those we grieve with the chance to really just
lose it, and to do so on purpose?

We also considered how much of the work of
justice already entails navigating grief and
lament. Consider what it means to speak on
behalf of climate justice in 2021, with the current
state of that struggle. Is there a more
immediately appropriate reaction than a sense of
devastation and loss? Is there a more appropriate
way to respond to economies and nations and
societies whose violence to the earth is

The strength of our voices together was also an
important idea that we returned to, again and
again. The expression of grief by anyone can be
poignant and powerful. But lament can be
powerful when it expresses the common
experience of us all. When we join together to
express a loss that is shared, the experience
invites in the sense of outrage of others, and in
the process, the shape of a better, more just
world emerges among us.

We live in an imperfect world, and we are all
witnesses to the injustices that shape it. Living
out that witness in a community of faith enables
us to share and give voice to experiences that we
could never manage on our own. That’s part of
what community does. I hope that we can
continue to think through and feel through the
ways that our community can bring together our
experiences––even when they are oriented
around grief––so that we can voice our values
and hopes into the world.