COVID-19: Leaning into the Grief and Anxiety

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

Bruce Wesley, Lead Pastor of Clear Creek Community Church shares how his congregation is staying connected while dealing with the grief and anxiety of COVID-19.

“…instead of jumping immediately to God as our solution, we need to understand that it has impacted us emotionally and one of the ways that God comforts us is he allows us to lament what we've lost…” – Lead Pastor, Bruce Wesley

Resources Mentioned:

Clear Creek Community Church

Zoom Video Communications


Tommy Rosson:

Hello, this is Tommy Rosson with Houston Responds and today we're joined by Bruce Wesley, Senior Pastor of Clear Creek Community Church. This is my senior pastor and he's been my pastor for 20 plus years and he's a great man and I'm so thankful for him to join us. Clear Creek has been a leader of a, obviously just a spiritual leader in this community, but also amongst other church leaders and church planters. And so, yeah, I'm looking forward to your insights. Bruce, tell me a little bit about what COVID-19 looks like in the life of Clear Creek Community Church.

Bruce Wesley:

Yeah. Thanks Tommy, and I really appreciate you having me here. I'm so grateful for you and what you're doing with. Houston Responds and just the fact that I know that pastors have an opportunity to share not just you, but all the people who are listening and kind of what you're leading in the city. I'm very grateful for that.

So, COVID-19, obviously affected our church like everyone else. We stopped meeting. We've had now two Sundays where we didn't gather as a church. And immediately jumped into an effort at trying to redefine what we do and make that abundantly clear to the entire church and how do we do church differently. So, like others we're having a worship service online. And with that worship service, we actually, I think previously, had planned on doing a series on grief and we considered not doing that series but chose to do it. And I'm so glad that we did. And I'll talk more about why that's so significant in a moment.

Then we obviously encouraged all of our groups to move to an online encounter using Zoom or whatever, software they can to get together online and most of our groups have done that and we've gotten really good reports from that. The only thing that we really added to our regular schedule, if you will, is we added the thing that we're calling, Wednesdays at Home. Wednesdays at Home is an effort to give people encouragement. So we said to them at our church, we say, this is an opportunity to meet with one of our pastors who is going to encourage you, share with you from the scriptures, pray with you, but also give you an update as to what Clear Creek Community Church is doing in response to COVID-19. We felt like we needed to create a space where we can encourage and pray with people and give them a report. Because we're often at home, people have great uncertainty. You know, what, what are we going to be doing as a church? What are we going to be doing in the future? And we can't predetermined all of that. This is a very fluid situation. And so we have to have some measure of agility in our ability to communicate with people. And so really that's why we created the Wednesday at Home experience. All of our other ministries also taken things online, as well. So, that's what we're doing.

The main messaging for us. though, really, I think has to do with what we're preaching these days. It has to be with this grief series because I think the challenge is uncertainty and there's tons of loss and all that we're dealing with now, you know, not just financial loss, loss of opportunities. Some will be with loss of job, a loss of sense of peace, a loss of sense of sanity in their home. You know, a lot of people are just always trying to achieve some measure of sanity in their home and now even being home for them is not a peaceful place. There's some measure of insanity. And so we're trying to help people deal spiritually, emotionally with that loss as well.

Tommy Rosson:

That's fascinating. The whole aspect of, you know, learning how to grieve during this process. As you look at, you know, Clear Community Church and the people, how has that series been impactful?

Bruce Wesley:

Yeah, we've gotten fantastic feedback so far. We thought we wouldn't do it, I'm so glad we were doing it because what I'm hearing from people is that they didn't even know they're grieving. You know, a lot of times when we face challenges as Christians, we want to get a stiff upper lip. We want to say, you know, well we have God with us, and we do, and he comforts us and he does. But at the same time, instead of jumping immediately to God as our solution. We need to understand that it has impacted us emotionally. And one of the ways that God comforts us is he allows us to lament what we've lost.

In lament, we take things to God, but we tell God how we feel. And that's why when we read through the Psalms, you know about a third of the Psalms are songs of lament. And they're not the psalmist telling us just what is true. The psalmist is telling God how he feels and he's downloading his emotion even if his emotion isn't accurate. And in the moment it may be something like, you know, God you've abandoned me. Well God hasn't abandoned us, but we feel abandoned sometimes. And so once we download our emotion, then we're able to ask God for help. And then ultimately, and this is the landing place of all lament, to really declare our trust in him, but we trust, even though we trust him, we still bring our raw emotion to it. So what we're trying to help people do is not become triumphalistic in their faith, even as they're facing coronavirus because that's even more condemning, right? So if we have this triumphalistic, message, yeah, everything's going to be great. Don't worry about it. And then people are at home and it's like, yeah, that's easy for you to say, but that doesn't seem real to me. And the real thing is we're all feeling it. So let's as a community go to God with actually how we feel. Ask for his help. Choose to trust him. Walk together in the days to come and with the hope that, the comforter will use that to, you know, really strengthen our hearts.

Tommy Rosson:

Oh, that's great. And that's so consistent with you and the whole lean into the hard things that right now, you know, this, this is a hard thing and it's okay to accept it. Let's lean into it and address it and allow God to work through it. That's great word. As you have been, talking with other pastors, you're very well connected and you're a mentor of church planters and other church leaders. What have you been hearing from, you know, church pastors and what would you say to other congregational leaders in greater Houston?

Bruce Wesley:

Yeah, I think most of the pastors that I'm talking to are keenly aware of the, the high anxiety that's created by this. You know it's not just that people are struggling emotionally. It's that we have a general sense of anxiety because we have uncertainty about the future. And so, pastors are in this responsibility of trying to lead a congregation into the future. And not only are the people in the church being in this anxiety, but pastors are too, and we're wanting to get together and learn from each other because we don't know what the future looks like. And none of us who've ever been here before, you know, I mean, the last real pandemic I guess was 1918. And so none of us were alive or leading at that time. And so getting together has proven to be helpful. Not only because it allows us to share what we're learning, different ideas so that we can help each other. It also becomes this opportunity to feel understood. Where pastors are getting to say to one another, You know, I'm the person who supposed to be leading this, but I gotta tell you my anxiety is through the roof because there's so much uncertainty.

If you think about it, fear, we can usually pinpoint what makes us afraid or sadness. We generally have sadness because there's a specific loss, but anxiety that's different. It's due to uncertainty. And so when we have this uncertainty, we get pastors together and we're able to share our anxiety, the load of our anxiety and feel understood and that, and for some reason this is really comforting. So when I'm with my pastor friends, we're praying together, we're sharing ideas. But really the subtext of all of that is we're sharing this community of comfort in the fact that we all feel the burden to lead a people into an uncertain future.

Tommy Rosson:

That's a great word. And not only do pastors need it, our congregants need it. You know, our small group need it. And honestly, I mean, to be very honest, many people in our neighborhoods need it and need somebody just to download on. And so that's why it's so important we stay connected into our communities. Bruce, thank you very much for joining us today.

Bruce Wesley:

It's an honor to be with you and listen, I'm so grateful as I said, or how you're leading Houston Responds. And then, I believe that all of us working together with your direction and the direction of others, that we're going to be able to serve this community all the better in the days to come in the midst of all that uncertainty. So I'm hopeful.

Tommy Rosson:

Amen. That's my prayer. Church leaders if you would like more vid