Remembering lives lost: Interfaith virtual memorial service honors COVID-19 victims

The numbers appear mind-numbing. More than 100,000 deaths in the United States alone.

Nearly 350,000 worldwide.

A local group aims to find a way to bring those statistics to a more personal level and take a moment to ache for all who have died from COVID-19 in the pandemic.

The four-member Columbus Interfaith, plus four other local houses of worship, will join in hearts to remember and honor the world’s COVID-19 victims in a virtual service via Zoom to be posted online Sunday.

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Nic Cable, minister at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbus and Columbus Interfaith’s executive director, sees the time of pain and suffering as a good time for people of a variety of faiths to share the emotional and spiritual burden — at least online. He worked with the Rev. Tonja Gerardy, minister at North Christian Church, to plan the gathering.

“As religious leaders in this town, we really believe it’s important to lift up the grief of those for all who have died, and also to take time to celebrate the strength of all our medical workers and other essential workers,” Cable said.

“It’s just so important that the interfaith community comes together as one entity.”

Cable has been a proponent of that ever since he arrived in Columbus in the summer of 2017. Like many others, he has been a part of local memorial services for Muslims killed at mosques, Christians killed at churches, and Jewish worshippers killed at a synagogue. He has encouraged area spiritual followers to find comfort amid a common ground of simple love and respect for one another.

The planned, 45-minute service will include music, prayers and remarks from a variety of speakers from among the eight participating spiritual bodies: the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbus; the Hindu Society of Southern Indiana; Sha’arei Shalom Reform Jewish Congregation; the Islamic Society of Columbus Indiana; North Christian Church; First Presbyterian Church; First United Methodist Church; and Fairlawn Presbyterian Church.

Paula Brummett, president of the local Sha’arei Shalom Reform Jewish Congregation, mentioned that the grief over such losses has been felt worldwide — and far beyond victims’ families.

“It’s so very sad the way that everything seems to have happened so quickly with something that no one really knew anything about since it was a brand new virus,” Brummett said. “It’s just been so sad and scary.

“I never thought in my lifetime that I would ever experience anything like this.”

As part of the service, Lesley Reuter, another lay leader for Sha’arei Shalom Reform Jewish Congregation, will sing a Jewish prayer of healing titled “Mi Shebeirach.”

Brummett said she personally knows a number of people who were infected with the virus. But all have recovered, or are recovering. She added that it’s important for the city’s faith community ton stand unified in love during such a trying time.

“I think that it’s important for the community to know there are people thinking of everyone and praying for them,” Brummett said. “And it’s important for people to know that there are those recognizing the people horribly caught in the middle of all this.”

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What: Local online memorial service to grieve for the world’s COVID-19 victims and to pray for their families and others. The Zoom gathering will include people from eight different houses of worship.

When: Service will be posted online Sunday evening.

Where: Prayers, perspective and songs will be shared from various people’s homes.