LOWER SALFORD — Each one of the about 550 luminaries along the path through the Salford Mennonite Church cemetery represents the COVID-19 deaths of 1,000 people in the United States totaling 549,000 and more than 5,000 people worldwide totaling 2.7 million since the start of the pandemic.

The accompanying luminary walks, which are part of a week-long Covid Remembrance and Hope outdoor event on the church grounds, were designed to give a time of public shared grieving along with hope, Pastor Beth Yoder said.

"Many have kind of gone into a state of numbness somewhere along the way just to survive and to do what we needed to do to keep adjusting in the course of the pandemic, aware all the time of the terrible toll that it's taken, but hardly having time to stop and let it in," she said.

It's particularly significant that the event is taking place on Holy Week leading up to Easter, during which Jesus took on himself the world's sorrows and wrongs, she said.

"I think the invitation and hope that we have for people as they walk is, in whatever way they can, to walk with a sense of the overarching compassion of God for the world as all its people have been going through this," Yoder said.

The first luminary walk was the night of Saturday, March 27. A second one was scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. Maundy Thursday, April 1, with a rain date of Saturday, April 3.

The date will be confirmed at salfordmc.org by noon on Thursday, April 1. 

Mask wearing is requested at the outdoor event at the church at 480 Groffs Mill Road, Harleysville.

From March 27 through April 3 there is an interactive prayer wall at the historic Salford schoolhouse, which was built in 1883, and which is on the church grounds at the end of the luminary walk. Participants can reflect with art, lighting a candle or writing a prayer or hopes for the future or the name of persons who have died from COVID-19 and placing what they have written on the wire mesh prayer wall.

"The hope that many of us feel stirring is that this time in the pandemic has kind of forced us to be stripped down to what's really essential, what matters most," Yoder said. "One of the hopes would be that some of that stays with us as we come out of the pandemic and that the return to normal not be a full return to what it was."   

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