Fisk University / History & Culture / Morehouse College / Religion & Spirituality

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn: God’s Abiding Presence During Grief

Jason R. Curry, PhD currently serves as the Dean of the Chapel at Fisk University. He is a licensed and ordained Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC). A Morehouse man, Curry also holds a Master of Divinity Degree from Harvard Divinity School and in 2005 he completed his doctoral degree studies at Vanderbilt University. Curry is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and he is also a Connecting Link. Curry is married to Angela and they are the proud parents of three children, John, Nia, and Samuel. Stay connected with him on Facebook at Fisk Chapel.

By: The Reverend Dr. Jason R. Curry, Morehouse ’92

I have had the honor of preaching many eulogies throughout the past twenty years. Delivering a final farewell to family members, friends, church members, colleagues or citizens in the wider community is an emotionally and intellectually exhausting experience. However, given the complexities of life that we cannot avoid — the universal challenges that confront us from womb to tomb — leading, organizing and managing a homegoing service is one of the most reverent, meaningful, and rewarding ways one can say goodbye.

My ministerial experiences throughout the county have shown me that death rarely occurs at an appropriate or scheduled hour. Like the unpredictable pattern of maple leaves on a windy autumn day, death is nonresponsive to our human commands, dismissive of our universal wants and ignorant of our psychological need to embrace a cohesive and holistic community of family and friends.

At times, our lives would suggest tragedy and death have the final say in our spiritual, emotional, and psychological wellbeing. However, as a person who has ministered to bereaved families for many years, I have found that the utilization of resources in the Christian faith — prayer, singing hymns, receiving pastoral counseling, remaining in fellowship with believers and consistent bible study — is helpful for anyone who has felt the loss of one who was truly loved. Jesus Christ lived more than two-thousand years ago, and his message of faith, hope and love is still capable of sustaining and healing this generation.

Historical record boldly declares that those who are identified as African-Americans have never had the financial resources to afford adequate or comprehensive mental health services to cope with the emotional and existential loss of a love one. However, in an effort to address such challenges the Black Church provided pastoral care and counseling. For example, pastors often comforted and inspired their congregants by stating that the funeral service was actually a “celebration of life” rather than a “recognition of death.” Some of the most passionate, inspiring, thought-provoking and comforting sermons that I have ever heard were eulogies regarding a “celebration of life”. Many African-Americans could not afford to participate in services provided by psychologists and psychiatrists; therefore, the Altar Call or Pastoral Prayer provided them the opportunity to tell God about their feelings of loss or to have someone pray on their behalf.

Songs such as “Have a Little Talk with Jesus” affirmed the immanent nature of the Triune God and congregants knew God would attune His ear to their petition for comfort, joy, and understanding in the midst of despair. The ministries of the Black Church have always served as a resource for individuals, couples and families who experienced the bitterness of tragedy and loss. Scholarly texts recognize and celebrate the leadership and the faithful congregants who willingly and unselfishly embraced the words of Jesus in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).”

Many of the members of my family have passed, and I am a witness that the hymns, preaching, counseling and bereavement ministries have been invaluable in helping me to cope with despair in the midst of God’s manifold blessings. The assuring and life-giving words of Jesus “I am with you always even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as Comforter (John 14:26) and the blessed assurance of God’s presence now, henceforth and forevermore have helped to sustain me when the words of people were grossly inadequate.

A healthy and progressive church will always have a comprehensive and multifaceted ministry for the bereaved. If you are currently having difficulty “working-through” a stage in the cycle of grief (e.g., anger), I invite you to consider pastoral counseling, the ministries of the church or talking with God though prayer.

I am a witness that God is still an “ever present help in a time of trouble (Psalm 46:1).”

Amen.

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