May 21, 2020National Council of Churches to Hold Virtual Ecumenical Memorial Service on May 24 to Mourn the Lives Lost to COVID-19

National Council of Churches to Hold Virtual Ecumenical Memorial Service on May 24 to Mourn the Lives Lost to COVID-19

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to join other faith leaders in remembering those who have died in global pandemic.

The Episcopal Church - Public Affairs Office Four-minute read.   Resources
Votive candles, Washington National Cathedral, Washington, DC. Image credit: Gary Allman

The Episcopal Church is honored to share the following invitation from the National Council of Churches (NCC):

The National Council of Churches USA (NCC) will hold a public online memorial service on Sunday, May 24, 2020, at 6:00 pm ET to mourn the more than 300,000 people worldwide who have lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 90,000 of whom were in the United States. The NCC is comprised of 38 member communions ranging from mainline Protestant to historic African American and Orthodox churches.

This service, A Time to Mourn: An Ecumenical Memorial Service for Lives Lost to COVID19, will be broadcast on YouTube and Facebook Live.

The plans grew out of a profound concern by faith leaders that, due to the lock-down and other restrictions surrounding the coronavirus, people have been unable to properly grieve the passing of loved ones. The nation has not had a public moment of collective grief to acknowledge and mourn the impact of losing so many lives in such a short period of time.

The memorial will include a sermon offered by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, the Right Reverend Michael B. Curry, known as the “Love Preacher” after he spoke at the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Many other clergy from a broad spectrum of Christian traditions, some of whom have been personally impacted by COVID-19, will offer prayers, readings and songs during the observance, including, among others: 

  • Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, NCC Chair and President and General Minister of the United Church of Christ
  • Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • Rev. Eddy Aleman, General Secretary, Reformed Church in America
  • Rev. Dr. Teresa Hord Owens, President and General Minister, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, Chair, Conference of National Black Churches
  • Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, NCC Vice Chair and Presiding Prelate, Fifth District, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Bishop Minerva Carcano, California-Nevada Conference, United Methodist Church
  • Father Nicholas Kazarian, Greek Orthodox Church. 

The National Council of Churches planned the ceremony as a way for the country to join together to grieve the passing of family, friends, and even strangers we hear about in news reports. A list of names of those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 is being collected and will be scrolled during the service. Names may be added by clicking here.

 Noting the pain and suffering felt by so many Americans whose loved ones died alone or were not able to conduct normal funeral services for them, church leaders offered the following statements: 

“Religious rituals provide unique ways for us to express our feelings and close emotional wounds,” said Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, leader of the United Church of Christ and chair of the NCC Governing Board. “There are gaping needs for this right now. Our hope is that by taking part together in this observance, healing will follow in the hearts and minds of those who are grieving.”

“We are all in need of consolation during this very distressing time,” stated Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). “We will gather together to give thanks for the lives that have been lost, to commend the deceased to the love and mercy of God, and to hear the proclamation of God’s victory over death in Jesus Christ.”

“Every life deserves to be remembered and properly acknowledged in the most meaningful way possible,” said Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary of the National Council of Churches. “Religious ritual is an incomparable way to do just that. We’ve planned a program we hope Christians of all traditions will feel comfortable joining in—as well as those of other religions and no religion at all. This is as much about human dignity as it is about faith.” 

“I am honored to be a part of this service. It is a beautiful idea, as so many are grieving without the usual rituals and gatherings,” said Rev. Dr. Teresa Hord Owens, General Minister and President, Christian Church/Disciples of Christ. “Our prayer is that this service will minister to individuals, families, communities and the nation as a whole. Together, as the body of Christ, we will begin to meet some of this deeply felt need.”


A Time to Mourn: An Ecumenical Memorial Service for Lives Lost to COVID19 

Sunday, May 24, 6:00 PM ET USA 

For more information or interviews with participants of the Ecumenical Memorial Service, please contact: Rev. Steven D. Martin, 202-412-4323 or

Since 1950, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) has served as a leading voice of witness to the living Christ.  NCC unifies a diverse covenant community of 38 member communions and over 40 million individuals –100,000 congregations from Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African-American, and Living Peace traditions – in a common commitment to advocate and represent God’s love and promise of unity in our public square.  NCC partners with secular and interfaith partners to advance a shared agenda of peace, progress, and positive change.

The Public Affairs Office provides statistics, biographies, photos, background information, and other resources to media representatives reporting on the mission and ministries of The Episcopal Church.


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