Activating Hope:

Creating Compassionate Community

Throughout these seasons of COVID withdrawal, community has been difficult to maintain as people became isolated, anxious, and fearful of others who represented a potential threat to our health.

As churches rebuild, as we welcome back our members after months of separation, let's pay attention to the inner realities of those lives and focus on the new community we want to be.

And right now, that community may consist of a lot of wounded souls.

 After more than two years of navigating the corona virus, rebuilding and reconfiguring community is now an essential priority for churches. It is not enough just to put programs back in place. We must also be about the business of restructuring people’s faith and hope to accommodate the challenges they now face.

We now come together under wildly different circumstances in an environment that must account for people’s altered states of heart, mind, body, and soul. The forced isolation endured by so much of our population is taking its toll. New patterns of withdrawal have set in disconnecting people from one another. Loneliness may be hiding latent depression until it can’t be kept under wraps any longer.
We need to become communities of healing and hope again.

As participants in various communities of faith, we also belong to the Body of Christ, a people called to trust that renewed hope is a cardinal sign of healing. We must reclaim our trust in that and reactivate our hope in such a way that it builds back sensations of belonging, promise and potential, all of which are signs that healing is underway. 


Let's persevere to recreate community and learn how to respond to the trauma experienced by so many in our world right now.
Even more essential, let's restore our hope. 

Consider some of these ideas....

The Miracle of Story

Stories must be told in community for them to thrive. They are also essential ingredients in the maintenance of hope. When we tell our own story to ourselves, it can move into some dark places and suggest a grim outcome. But tell your story to others, and those around you tend to reinforce other possible endings, partly because they become actors in the drama of your life and see your life in ways that may be hidden from you. 

Learning to listen to another’s story is as essential as telling your own, because it brings you into the life of that person, securing you both against further isolation and alienation. Just listening, then praying for someone else, is an act of new hope that can initiate healing and restoration.

We are participants in these stories, and it is critical that we not get that confused. We are not therapists, nor are we equipping ourselves to be cheap substitutes for the clinicians others may need. We are not going to fix anything for anybody. Instead, we will focus on becoming a part of that indispensable community of compassion, without which healing and hope simply cannot exist. That is not a secondary role! Each of us can be an essential and primary partner in someone else’s care. And we may even strengthen our own mental well-being along the way.

Fictional narratives, like those describing Tamara Baxter's experience, can help us tap into those personal narratives that often remain hidden and unexplored. Personal trauma gets buried, emotional suffering remains hidden, mental illness lingers in the shadows because we are inhibited by fear or wary of the stigma they contain. 


Sharing such stories in community can become an act of healing. By paying close attention and seeking to understand another’s experiences, you may instill hope that that person is not alone. You don’t need to be a licensed clinician for that. You need love, sensitivity, and patience. Some people need to tell their story and know they are being heard. It is a crucial component in community, and a significant act of compassion. Trust that your listening ears may do more for a person than your bright ideas or clever insights into their situation. 


Listen. Listen. Listen.
And when that feels inadequate,
listen some more.

Consider Tamara's story and form a group 
to discuss these matters with others:

regifting our pain


Compassion is a compound word that joins the Latin root words for ‘suffering’ and ‘togetherness’ in a way that encourages hope and healing. We offer our pain in love for the sake of another in ways that lend strength, comfort, and companionship as we walk together through life’s most arduous challenges. 


We make a gift of our own suffering, trusting that God may use those experiences to bring new life to another wounded soul. Along the way, we discover God is also healing us through the loving expressions of others.  

Family feasting in times of emotional loss or grief

Host an Empty Chair Event

Facing the first holiday or special family event without someone who has always been there can be emotionally painful. Others who are separated by distance, withdrawn because of emotional challenges, or no longer feel comfortable in large group settings may face the prospects of being more alone than usual. As we mature, those empty chairs multiply. Family occasions may begin to lose significance or even lead to darker emotional challenges. 

       Those empty chairs represent losses we may try to hide as we busy ourselves with cooking and decorating. Or we may try to replace the event altogether with some other activity. Yet that loss may yield new strength of heart and the discovery of a different sort of joy if the family can face it together and embrace the moment as one of hope and healing. 

      How do we re-engage those events and still be grateful? How do we celebrate with others even when we don’t “feel it”? Create an event during which people may share their experiences so we can build a new body of collective wisdom as we pray for new direction through these valleys of shadow.

Singing a New Song to the Lord
in Seasons of Longing and Lament

The Psalms may offer us the words we need when our pain leaves us speechless before God, and they may confirm truths about God that can sustain us when we are feeling weak and unwell. 

Rooted in these Scriptures, the hymns of faith that we sing can also build hope more firmly within us and teach us ways to claim that hope when it is needed most. 

That is especially true when we sing them together as they reinforce sensations of community and well-being. We are sharing this faith and announcing our hope as we sing in community, adding our lonesome and lonely voices to others. Sometimes, we sense others are singing the words for our benefit, at other times we may feel we are singing to them. 

Hymns are one of the church’s most treasured resource for forming faith and expressing hope. As we look for fulfillment of the promises of God, our hymns gather us up and usher us forward to that time when all will be healed. As we sing, we are already living into that hope, trusting it is being fulfilled.

Praying through Emotional and Mental Pain


Prayer brings us into the presence of God, the source of our hope, and can reinforce the promise of restoration as we entrust our lives to the One who truly heals. But there may be times when prayer becomes one of the burdens we endure rather than a source of solace or assurance. 

As our challenges mount, prayer needs to adapt to meet them head on. Familiar routines of prayer can become dry and arid, or dark and scarry. Comforting phrases and cherished expressions of devotion now sound empty or false. 

And God may seem to have left us alone in our pain. 

Consider a group discussion in which participants may share their experiences of prayer and the struggles they may be facing to remain close to God. Build new community wisdom by exploring ways of praying when quiet may bring sensations of dread and our inner pain refuses to let us focus.

Suicide Prevention

Learn the signs, be attentive and prayerfully aware so you and your community may prevent the loss of life through the depletion of hope.

I would love to hear your ideas about creating compassionate community!

If your fellowship of faith has taken active steps to create a compassionate community of hope for those suffering in their minds and emotions, I would love to hear about it.

Send your ideas to:
[email protected]