by Olivia Hagstrom
On Tuesday, November 17, 2020, in Nazareth Hall Great Room, faculty, staff and students from the University of Northwestern–St. Paul gathered to hold a service of lament. It was livestreamed for all employees and students to view and participate. The official title of the service was “Continuing in a Commitment to a Prayer and Reconciliation Journey to Unity: Service of Lament.” The purpose was to acknowledge the suffering and need in the UNW community and in the state, country and world. It was a time to come together in prayer for this current season and ask God to forgive personal and corporate sins.
Dr. Pam Solvie, director of Global Initiatives and a professor in the School of Education, served on the planning team, along with Dr. Nicki Jordan, Justin Jeppesen and Jerod Cornelius. A service of lament was initially proposed by Global Initiatives in the spring of 2019 and approved by the Senior Leadership team. From the Global Initiative Council came a subcommittee known as the Prayer and Planning Team that met nine months prior to pray and plan for the service held on September 19, 2019. The 2019 service fixated on prayers of lament surrounding UNW’s history, whereas this years’ service focused on “COVID-19, loss, unrest and discourse,” according to Dr. Solvie.
To Dr. Solvie, “Lament recognizes and mourns over suffering. In prayers of lament, we ask [for] forgiveness, and we ask for wisdom.” She continued, “Lament invites blessing and spiritual renewal as we acknowledge sin, seek forgiveness, repent and seek reconciliation with others.” Solvie’s hope for the service was “to represent our community in this lament.” Multiple voices were represented, including the voices of the UNW president, Senior Leadership Team, staff, faculty and students.
Among the readers was ministry partner Abby Ambroson. She reflected on the service as “a beautiful and reverent time to acknowledge the pain in this world and remember the hope we have in our Great Deliverer.” This was Ambroson’s first interaction with the service. She added, “It came at an appropriate time, both in the world around us and in my personal life.”
The event began with sorrowful repentance and concluded with praise. Dr. Solvie explained: “Lament is followed by praise as we acknowledge God’s sovereignty, his great compassion, his forgiveness, his grace and his mercy. We acknowledge his great faithfulness. We acknowledge that he is for us, that he is our strength. We turn our focus back to God. We honor him. All of these things are part of lament and provide purpose for our Service of Lament.”
Ambroson remarked, “It is important to ultimately praise God in this lamenting, which I think the service did well.”
To ensure social distancing protocols and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, only those reading and praying aloud in the service were present in Nazareth Hall Great Room. Those who were present were masked, and those speaking wore face shields. Despite facing the reality of the current times, UNW’s Service of Lament gave all glory to Christ.