Listening for losses and longings

By Nancy Going
Many clergy and congregations long for their ministry to look differently than it currently does. Some want things to look like they “used to.” Others want to see changes in how the congregation is led, who participates, or what the congregation focuses on.
Many clergy and congregations fear they are going to lose something important to them (or have lost something important) as the congregation faces the future. These fears are a reality for congregations who have questions about whether or not they will exist for another generation. These fears are also a reality in congregations that are stable or thriving and want to keep things going the way they are into the future.
This spiritual practice invites participants to enter into a process of lamenting these longings and losses. Lamenting can create space for grieving losses and building trust in God’s direction for the future. This is framed according to the basic structure of a lament psalm. We invite you to work through it for yourself but also to consider using it with groups within your congregation.

Begin with These Questions

  • What’s one wish you have for your congregation?
  • What’s something that used to happen (or used to be true) in the congregation that you wish would return?
  • What’s one thing you fear might be lost as your congregation moves into the future?
  • What’s something that has changed that you feel is a loss in the life of the congregation? 

Praying for our lamentations

  1. Address God. Direct your lament to God, framing the conversation about your longings and losses as a prayer.
  2. Complaint. Name what you long for and wish was true about your congregation. Name your fears about what has been or could be lost as you move into the future.
  3. Confession. Confess your need for God’s grace and forgiveness in your life.
  4. Ask God for Help. Name what you want God to do for you. Express your longings and losses as a request.
  5. Affirm Trust in God. Affirm your trust in God and God’s leadership over the future of your congregation.
  6. Promise to Praise God. Praise God for who God is, what God has done, and what God will do.


  1. When and where do you provide opportunities for lament?
  2. Do you have a list of people to invite into a lamentation experience?
  3. How do you connect lament to the hope in God's promises for your life?
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