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Faith Leaders To Join Remembrance Of COVID-19 Victims In U.S.

TONYA MOSLEY, HOST:

The fabric will be 450 feet long, long enough to stretch across the block in front of the White House. It'll be purple, the color of mourning, but it also symbolizes a blend of both red and blue politics. And it'll be unfurled tonight in Washington, D.C., at one of the candlelight vigils happening at churches, synagogues and mosques across the country. It's called Mourning into Unity, an effort to remember those who have died from COVID-19 and then use that grief to bring people together. Joining us is one of the faith leaders speaking tonight via videoconference, Reverend Ed Bacon of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Atlanta.

Hi, Ed.

ED BACON: Thank you very much, Tonya.

MOSLEY: Yeah, so this event is being described as nonpartisan and interfaith, meaning it's a mix of denominations and faiths. You'll be speaking at tonight's services via Zoom. What's the message you want to convey?

BACON: We want to say that in the midst of the divisiveness in our country and also the escalation of some violent language, we need to come together and mourn our losses as an act of unity and as an act of bringing us together and deescalating the polarization trap that seems to have our country in its grip right now.

MOSLEY: Why is collective mourning the key to moving forward?

BACON: We all know personally, I think, the power of bringing ourselves together. I just recently was informed of the death of a friend, and I immediately called some friends simply to share our sadness over the occasion. And they are, many of them, in a very different political space than I'm in. But for a moment, that was just bracketed so that we could be grateful and reminisce and also be sad together.

That's not only the case on an interpersonal basis, but on the level of our culture that is just as powerful. So to bring people of different faiths, religious leaders, to bring first responders, who will also be participating tonight, as symbols of a larger kind of cultural and institutional and political level will be very, very powerful.

MOSLEY: How does one measure unity? How will you know this reset of sorts will be successful?

BACON: So I have two responses. I think for those of us who are promoting mourning as a part of our spiritual practice - but I think that we'll be able to intuit that. I have a friend, Desmond Tutu, who says he could tell within five seconds whether he is in the presence of a person who believes and practices ubuntu or community or I need you and you need me. And I think we'll be able to feel it to the degree that this becomes American national practice.

Number two, I really do believe that we will sense a reduction in violence. One of the most recent frightening experiences is that the governor of Michigan was going to be kidnapped. So I actually do believe that when our loudest national leadership voices are not promoting unity that it really falls on the shoulders and the hearts of all of us citizens to step up and express our own leadership, to say, by coming together and grieving, we can be unified.

MOSLEY: Reverend Ed Bacon of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Atlanta, thank you so much.

BACON: You're very welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.