Lament Chapel Offers Space to Name Losses

February 23, 2021 / Andrea Wenger
A chapel of lament
A chapel of lament

“Grandpa John.” “Time with cousins.” “Hugging my friends.” “Singing in church.” “A junior tennis season.”

These were among words and notes written on small tea lights by students as part of a chapel of lament for grades 6-12 today.

“The biblical invitation to lament lets us know that our prayers that come out of pain are not too big for God,” said Justin King, high school principal, in an introduction to the activity. “This chapel allows time for naming losses in this season of Lent and during COVID.”

Teachers distributed battery-operated lights and Sharpie pens before students viewed the pre-recorded chapel video in their second block class period, the way chapel has taken place all year. The video included four questions for reflection as students wrote on their lights:

  • Write a letter, poem, or prayer to God. Address your lament to God…
  • Tell God what is wrong and what you feel…
  • Ask God for what you wish could happen…
  • Thank God for something, or tell God that despite all that feels wrong, you still want to trust God even though it’s hard to understand what is happening.

Students were dismissed by classes to take their candles to a cross in the front foyer. “Even though we’ve been blessed by having most students at school in person this year, there’s still a lot of loss,” said King.  “It’s moving to read some of the wisdom and pain in these words,” he noted as teachers and administrators looked at the display.

The lament chapel was planned by the school counselors, middle and high school principals, chapel coordinator, Andrea Wenger, and Carmen Schrock-Hurst, EMHS class of ’76 and Eastern Mennonite University youth ministry instructor.

Last week, a chapel reflection by Sherill King (class of ’70) Hostetter and her granddaughter, Karla, class of ’21, laid a foundation for the Lenten season. They reflected on the challenge of prayer in this time and invited people to turn toward God in whatever way feels comfortable.

An Ash Wednesday chapel service featured input by eight area pastors — all from churches that have EMS students — sharing about their Ash Wednesday observance. Participants were from Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, Community Mennonite Church, Divine Unity Community Church, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Harrisonburg Mennonite Church, Massanutten Presbyterian Church, Park View Mennonite Church, and RISE United Methodist Faith Community. Watch the video.

“We miss gathering corporately,” explained King. “But we have at least tried to offer a shared viewing experience for middle and high school to nurture our sense of community.”

See all the EMS chapel videos on YouTube here.

Check out some more photos from this story

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