NewsLocal News


Cleveland faith communities pay tribute through prayer during Day of Remembrance and Resilience

03-15-22 VIVIAN WILSON.jpg
Posted at 5:33 PM, Mar 15, 2022

CLEVELAND — A Day of Remembrance and Resilience in Cleveland commemorated the loss, sacrifice and durability of the community through the COVID-19 pandemic. Tuesday, faith leaders paid tribute during prayer services across the city.

“It’s wonderful, individually, for churches to do it today. And collectively, for the community, for our city just to say, ‘You know what? We care, we haven’t forgotten,’” said Chelton C. Flanagan, the senior pastor for Holy Trinity Baptist Church.

During the Tuesday prayer service, a small table in front of the pulpit displayed four photos of individuals who died from the virus. Some of their loved ones attended the worship.

“Memorials like this are hard, they’re good and it’s for your heart to heal,” said Marie Wimberly.

Wimberly’s mother, Vivian Wilson, was the first church member to die from the virus after a battle in the ICU in October 2020.

“I say she’s the woman, the myth, the legend because Vivian Wilson gave of herself,” Wimberly said. “It’s a void. It’s absolutely a void.”

The family, not permitted to visit the matriarch in the hospital, spoke to her the last time through video chat on a doctor’s cell phone.

“The video cut off and he came on and shared with us that she had taken her last breath,” Wimberly recalled.

In the two years since COVID-19 took hold in Northeast Ohio, the Cleveland Department of Health reports 933 people have died from the virus, including 4 in the past 30 days. Across the state, 37,410 deaths have been reported.

Pastor Flanagan said some of his church members could not have full, in-person funerals when they died. He hoped the Day of Remembrance and Resilience would bring the congregation a sense of peace.

“Not being able to have the services that they’re used to having, it brings them closure to be able to say goodbye. It brings them closure to be able to take time, to be able to reflect upon their loved ones,” he explained.

Around 20 churches throughout Cleveland hosted similar services ahead of a citywide event. Flanagan said faith has played a critical role during the pandemic. Like many others, the virus forced Holy Trinity to adapt its services to a live streamed event. A year later, the church began transitioning back to in-person services, but still offers a virtual option.

“People are still not comfortable coming yet, but we’re moving forward,” the pastor said. “To have a church where you can come, where you can call, to just keep you grounded, to keep you focused during this time – it’s imperative to have that.”

He explained the pandemic has highlighted the importance of the faith community, while the loss during the past two years has also forced people to consider what they value.

“[For] a lot of people, this is their life, this is their social moment for the week,” he said.

Wimberly added, “The measure of COVID is not a joke. It’s not media…It’s real. It’s so very real. And if we know nothing else: We have to come together.”

Community faith leaders planned to participate in the citywide memorial event later in the evening. The city of Cleveland also planned to light Downtown bridges and surrounding neighborhoods with an amber light in honor of the lives lost and in solidarity for the city’s comeback from the pandemic.

Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.

You can also catch News 5 Cleveland on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, YouTube TV, DIRECTV NOW, Hulu Live and more. We're also on Amazon Alexa devices. Learn more about our streaming options here.