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Asking the Clergy: Offering spiritual support for front-line workers

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Front-line workers have been celebrated, lauded by government officials and applauded (daily in some municipalities) for risking their lives to serve others during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This week’s clergy discuss how their congregations have added prayer, song and even horn blasts to lift up EMTs, doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks, postal workers and other heroes.

The Rev. Msgr. James Vlaun

President and CEO, Catholic Faith Network, Diocese of Rockville Centre

Heroes: They’re our neighbors, parishioners, friends, family, and they all deserve our gratitude and prayers.

The pope has prayed words of gratitude almost daily for a different sector of the front line; Bishop John Barres has done the same visiting our hospitals and cemeteries, offering prayers, sending videos and letters of gratitude for all kinds of front-line workers. This is true in our parishes and at my television network ministry, Catholic Faith Network. We all stream and offer prayers, Masses and inspirational talks to highlight and inspire the heroes.

We beep our horns and ring church bells at 7 p.m. nightly. Why? Closeness. When we draw near in prayer, our hearts and God’s heart touches our heroes to give them continued perseverance and a sense of love to urge them on. Yes, we are close to you! We are grateful to God for your service and the healing you bring. Pray for the helpers and those who gave their life serving, for “The greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11)

Let the pope’s prayer and our prayer be the same: “Lord … support their heroic effort and grant them strength, generosity and continued health.” Amen!

The Rev. Jaye Brooks

Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock, Manhasset

As we’ve lived more deeply into pandemic times, our members have opened their hearts to recognize the blessings of simple gifts — even in the midst of difficulty and sadness.

In our online Wednesday conversations, committee meetings and virtual coffee hour, I hear from members about how they’re managing. Many express gratitude to essential workers — the medical professionals and first responders who daily go into dangerous situations to help others. They speak with awe and concern of those whose efforts allow others to shelter at home to eat: the gig workers, the grocery store clerks and other minimum-wage employees who package and deliver food and supplies, working for low wages in sometimes life-threatening conditions.

Our members ask how we can ever repay the debt owed to these workers and hope America learns to treat them better, whether there’s a pandemic or not. A can of beans, pharmacy prescriptions, the miraculous and lively green of a salad — we are learning daily the meaning of these simple things.

When I ask people what they are learning during this difficult time, their first reaction is to laugh and say that they’ve learned how to Zoom. Then they say with humility and sincerity that they have learned to be grateful.

Rabbi Lina Zerbarini

Kehillath Shalom Synagogue, Cold Spring Harbor

When the Kehillath Shalom community gathers for morning online prayer and meditation, we bring into our presence those in need of healing. We share their names and send our love and hopes for a return to health. We sing a Jewish prayer for the sick: “May the one who blessed our foremothers, the source of blessing for our forefathers, bless all those in need of healing.” And we always include in our circle of prayer and gratitude those who are caring for all of us: health care workers, first responders, grocery store staff, gas station attendants, postal and delivery workers — all those who make it possible for those of us at home to stay fed, healthy, safe and connected.

We pray that they be supported with courage, strength, health, wisdom and perseverance. That the supernal nurturer and healer bless those who care for all of us.

To paraphrase the words of Psalm 90: May the favor of the Eternal, our God, be upon them; let the work of their hands prosper, O prosper the work of their hands. And may these workers truly experience our deep gratitude.

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com.

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