Friday, March 13, 2009

The Staff at a Funeral

When a member of our families dies we, as a staff, try to go. Yesterday, we attended a funeral for a sister of one of us. It was a wonderful service. I am always fascinated by the traditions and practices of the African American Church. The Choruses that everybody seems to know. One line songs like: "God allowed us to come here one more time." It's sung over and over and each time with more emotion and power. When there's a solo, it turns into a congregational song.

Then, there's the freedom of expression. Sure, there's an order of worship which we followed, but people respond in any way they want, or better, in any way they feel led. People stand, or clap, or shout, or shake their heads or sit. It's like everyone is invited to join in the service in some way. No one gets to be just a spectator.

There's the preaching. There is nothing like the cadence and the movement of African American preaching. In this service there was one preacher, the pastor of the church. He was young enough to be my grandson. He gave a wonderful, inspiring message of hope to the family.

The prayers, like other parts of the service, are led by someone, but everybody joins in.

The service also included witnesses to the family about the deceased. These are personal stories or expressions of love for the one who is gone. Apparently, the family chooses someone to do this for them.

In and through all this is the freedom of emotion, the open-ness of emotion. People cry, laugh, wail, if they need to. They throw themselves upon the deceased giving physical expression to their grief. Caringly, and lovingly, the congregation waited as family members did what they needed to do to get on with it. It was and is very moving.

Coming from my antiseptic white church where some folk would rather burst wide open than shed a tear, this service was impressive. Now, for sure, even in white worship, we've loosened up a bit, and people do actually cry and sometimes say "Amen."

We were welcomed warmly to worship by the congregation. I am grateful to be a part of a staff that comes to each other's aid when there is a need or a loss.

Dave Nichols

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Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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