All Saints by the Numbers

Rev. Daniel Haas is currently serving as a chaplain in hospice, hospital, and Army Reserve. Rev. Haas loves numbers, manages his own blog, and helps churches with their social media, website, and communications needs.


Today is All Saints Day. The Sunday before or after my congregations used to invite next of kin for those who had their funeral or memorial in the context of the church. With multiple marriages and various degrees of alienated children, it wasn’t always perfectly clear who to invite to come up to the altar to light the candle in memory of the deceased one.

Every year the church figures out who was baptized and buried under its care. But getting numbers together is hard. At the time of this writing, the CDC reports COVID-19 deaths in the 213,000s whereas John Hopkins University counts over 227,000.

The CARDD blog is more about the bigger picture and the numbers are good enough for that. Here is how COVID-19 stacks up against the other leading causes of death in the United States:

  • Third overall this year
  • Four times as deadly as influenza and pneumonia combined 
  • Higher than all accidental deaths combined 

Now when I look back at the causes of death in my congregations, the vast majority died because their time had come. But every year, there would be a death by suicide in there and one by overdose. Those are tough because they are unnecessary, because they are preventable. Support systems failed to intervene and help the victims connect to life. Families and congregations feel guilt and shame around them. Lighting the candle on their behalf is a special moment on the path to reconciliation.

COVID-19 is kind of like that. The magnitude of the outbreak could have been dramatically reduced if we had responded more robustly earlier. “We the people” failed ourselves by not providing the leadership we needed for this time. One way to embark on a path of reconciliation is to light an extra candle for the victims of our inability to govern ourselves well. Oh, and by the way, in just a few days we have a chance to do better.

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