The significance of Lament

On Sunday 6 October, two of the lectionary readings come from the Book of Lamentations, a little known book of the Old Testament which captures the trauma the Israelites experienced as a result of the Babylonian exile.

Dr Elizabeth Boase, director of studies and lecturer in Old Testament studies at Adelaide College of Divinity, told Wisdom’s Feast participants in July that the poems of Lamentations help a community construct meaning.

Sunday 6 October is also the first Sunday the body of the VicTas Synod comes together to worship following the announcement by the Property Board of the list of properties for divestment under special circumstances.

The Book of Lamentations, according to Dr Boase, was used by the Israelites to remember trauma. She defines trauma as an extreme event outside normal circumstances, which can’t be assimilated, and can become an open wound.

The synod is in the midst of a hugely significant event. Some church members see it as an opportunity to respond to the future that God has in store for us in a whole new way.

For others, the environment that has created it, causes anger, grief and loss of trust.

Lamentations is a confronting read. However there are still fundamental lessons to be learned and understanding to be gleaned in these poems of lament, fear, helplessness and pain.

Dr Boase believes that churches are not very good at being open to lament and holding a space for an exploration of trauma.

“We have a tendency to want to get to a point where everything is fixed but in that process there are things that are left unsaid, that are left unresolved, that ultimately come back and become much bigger issues because they have been silenced.

“So I think that time to actually honestly name  – and to begin that process of owning the difficult stuff – is the only way we can really go forward together as a community. Without it, too much is left unsaid which is unhelpful in the long run.”

When asked when was the appropriate time to undertake a lament in the context of worship, Dr Boase said it was not a once off event.

“The idea that we move through processes of grief in a linear fashion, that we’ve lamented therefore we are ready to heal; or we’ve been angry, we’ve expressed our anger, now we are onto the next stage, isn’t actually human experience.

“It is something we go to, we come back to, we might be in a different place, but we might need to come back to that because it does take time.

“I think we need to have initial space to lament, but then we may need to be free to come back to it another time.”

By Penny Mulvey

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