The Earthly Cloud of Witnesses

A friend of mine is in the middle of a tragedy right now.  It’s a tragedy of circumstance, of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  There was no evil, no harmful intent.  But she is in the midst of a tragedy, and it is wrenching.

My friend is one of the most faithful servants of the church that we have nowadays.  She has committed her life to serving this funny, flawed, and hope-filled institution.  I consider her a mentor, friend, and yente, as she worked years to get me and my husband together.  I owe her more than I can ever say, and she would never say that I owe her anything.  She’s that kind of person.

Because she has been this faithful servant of the church she knows a lot of people, and I mean, a LOT of people. So when news of this tragedy hit Facebook, our modern and immediate Pony Express, the message boards lit up with prayers that you would not believe.  At the end of the day I read all the comments on all the posts, and I am overwhelmed.  I am overwhelmed by the love and the faith and the hope and the presence that these silly, powerful Facebook comments convey.  And last night, after a long session meeting, as I sat on the couch in my pajamas with the dog in my lap, the husband by my side, and Castle playing on the DVR, I realized that as much as we talk about the great cloud of witnesses in the sky, there is the earthly cloud of witnesses, too.

All these people posting on Facebook – and all those posting on the Caring Bridge site, and emailing and calling and showing up: they are witnesses to love, to the power of love and gratitude.  They are witnesses to the power of friendship, and the church, and belief that you tell people you love them and hold them in your heart.

Love cannot undo this tragedy, and my heart breaks at that.  Love cannot fix what is broken in this situation.  But love might be able to make it a little less worse than it is.  As the tragedy is cauterized, love might distract in that good way.  Love might take away an ounce of the pain.  Love will persist, because I know some of these people in this earthly cloud of witnesses, and like me, they have been mentored and loved by my friend.  They will show up; they will pray; and whether they know or care that they are doing this, they will witness to the Good.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overwhelm it.”

Candlelight vigil cups color

12 thoughts on “The Earthly Cloud of Witnesses

  1. So well said, Beth. So many of our prayers are with both of them – just as theirs have been with us all these years. A cloud of witnesses indeed.

  2. Beth–You say it so well and with beautiful honesty and compassion. We cannot know the full measure of the prayers that flow from such a great cloud. I do not know your friends, but I will add my prayers, and will hold them in God’s Light.

  3. So beautifully written and full of the love and care you described. In a moment like this we gain a glimpse of the love and tears of God.

  4. Your thoughts here are so well spoken and a gift not only to Carol but to all of us. I’m struck as we talk about clouds of witnesses and how this Presbyterian family “fits” together that you are a good friend of Erika Funk and we have just said good-bye to her here in Philly at Broad Street Ministry and wished her well going to Charlotte. And I serve on a committee for OGA with Carol and so join many others you have mentioned here in prayer for Carol. The cloud is wide and deep and reaches where we don’t know but the connections bind us in good times and in bad.

  5. Thank you Beth, for words so eloquent, describing a picture of “being Church” that might make sense to my teenagers, who know Carol and of this unfolding tragedy. (Your father-in-law stood with me at times as part of this earthly “cloud of witnesses.”)

  6. Standing alongside or beside in whatever mode possible brings hope and renewal to others whose pain we can only imagine from our own experiences. May those involved and beyond be lifted by your words and more importantly, your prayers. Well said.

  7. Beth, I keep re-reading these beautiful, eloquent words. This is indeed a tragic situation and breaks my heart. I am comforted by the knowledge that there is so much love and faith out there in the world being directed toward Carol and David and their family.


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