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The grief is crushing this Seattle pastor. And so she lights a candle every day

Plymouth Church in downtown Seattle isn’t holding services in person. But it’s more than church services that are affected by social distancing.

As an older congregation, its members are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. The church’s lead pastor, Dr. Reverend Kelle Brown says the pandemic has challenged how she sees herself and her job.

Voices of the Pandemic features people in the Seattle area on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak in their own words.

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here are many days where I descend into tears because I'm not sure what I'm doing, and if I'm doing the right thing.

I've felt handicapped and as if someone had cut off bits of me because I didn't feel like I could do what I normally do: I wasn't able to pastor and minister; I wasn't able to be a friend. I wasn't able to extend compassion in the normal ways.

And so I find myself just being quiet and looking at the sky or at a wall, or just in this almost catatonic state, because I'm constantly worried and constantly waiting and watching and praying to see who's next. So yes, there have been deaths. And yes, there are people who are ill. And it's so crushing to walk with people, to companion people through illness, virtually.

So, I really was dealing with my own sorrow, and felt that I needed to tend to myself so that I might be of some use to someone else.

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ecause of the grief of losing dear friends, and the grief before the grief, the waiting to hear who might have passed over, I light a candle every day.

I imagine, along with the others of us who are lighting candles in our community, we're lighting candles so that we might remember that there is an extravagance of love for each of us, not because of what we've done, not because of who we are or what's in our bank account, but simply because we are drawing breath every day.

And so when I light the candle, and I watch the wax drip, I imagine those are the tears that are so necessary to get us through this time.

There's no need for us to be strong in the sense that we are disconnected from our emotions. This is a time for us to truly be human, to understand that the candle represents our ontological need to burn through this suffering in this time of quarantine.

I'm watching how the flame flickers and how it's alive. And so I'm remembering that it represents people and the lives of those in community with me. Like the member who brought a record player to my door and old records yesterday so that I can hear Motown and other things on vinyl rather than digitally.

Every day that I light the candle I feel its heat. I am reminded that that's how it will feel when I'm able to hug friends and family again that I'm missing. And together, all of us are feeling the heat of our flames.

We know that we will be different on the other side of it, but we will be. And that's going to be enough.

Dr. Reverend Kelle Brown is the lead pastor at Plymouth Church, United Church of Christ, in downtown Seattle. Joshua McNichols produced that piece. Alec Cowan composed some of the music.

Hear more personal stories from our series Voices of the Pandemic, and contribute your own, by writing this reporter at jmcnichols@kuow.org or filling out our story form at KUOW.org/voices.