I haven't felt much like writing this last week, though I have been reading a bit. On two consecutive days, I have heard of the untimely death of a 41 year old I knew, a lovely man; and now, there is news of a younger man we know, who has been posted missing while walking last weekend in the Scottish hills.
A couple of weeks ago I went to a funeral of a 41 year old woman. I first met her about the time she left school. She had cancer of the liver. Her son is about the age she was when she gave me her first bright smile, and, when I was almost a new person on the block. Her very long awaited second child, is nearly four years old. the Humanist service the woman chose, was personal, inclusive, and it comforted me a great deal. The family mourners commented on how it was helping them too.
It got me thinking about other farewell services and rituals I had participated in locally in recent years. Of the many Christian funeral services I have been to, only three of them, I am sad to say, were non-divisive.
One minister could have started a religious world war with his words. He was offensive. There was a lot of embarrassment, and people personally apologised for what had been said to a couple of mourners who were not Christians. That minister seemed to have a habit of upsetting people with his style of funeral sermons. My neighbours commented after their mother's funeral service, with screwed up faces, how 'strange' the minister was.
Another minister always bluntly told all assembled that they could not expect salvation [of any kind?] if they did not believe in the way he believed, if they did not attend his church, notwithstanding, there were, and are, other churches in the community.
One Easter we paid our respects to a work colleague on the other side of town. I had never heard of the presiding minister; there were some mumbles about him being new, and the mumblers hoped he would be alright. The man of the cloth had been in situ about five years! How long do you have to serve in a place not to be 'new,' I wondered. I settled down to wait for the expected uncomfortable fire and brimstone, but it never came. The minister spoke of the departed man, then, thoughtfully and kindly addressed the family and the assembled mourners.
Another gentle service was given by a locum minister from the Antipodes, who was so unprepared, he stumbled all the way through the 'words' devised for him, at his request, by the family. 'Crochet' (which the departed lady was good at) brought the man to a stuttered halt. With a stage whisper I put him out of his misery, and he successfully verbally stumbled on to the end.
The third memorable and welcoming service, was given by a young American Church minister to a packed house. He warmly greeted everyone. His sermon linked into readings from the Old and New Testaments, but, somehow he seemed to loose the threads between the two readings. I have never worked out what he was trying to convey.
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