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In the midst of life, we are in death

May 15, 2012

Completely ignoring the fact that I haven’t posted here in a while…We are embarking, in our Wednesday night Adult Education class, on a study of N.T. Wright’s very good book Surprised by Hope.  As we get into this book we have had several good conversations already about death and dying, hope, afterlife, and resurrection.  It’s been interesting to hear a few stories about how the rituals we enact around death (funerals/burials/etc.) impact the worshipers and influence how they think and believe about these subjects.

I remember when I was in college a very good friend of mine was killed.  At his funeral, which was packed, there was a time for what I will call, for lack of a better phrase, “open mic eulogies.”  It was awful.  Many, many people carried on at great length, which, while it may have been cathartic for them quickly grew to be boring for the worshipers.  And I guess that’s the point of what made me feel awkward:  what should have been a worship service acknowledging God’s care for us in the midst of the grief of a life cut short and celebrating the sure and certain hope of the resurrection was turned into something much more about a few individuals which the rest of us had to endure than about God and our corporate relationship with God.

I am wondering, what have been your experiences at funerals recently?  Was there a particularly “good” one?  What made it so powerful for you?  Was there there one that left you feeling bad?  How come?  What did the service communicate to you about such things as death, heaven, resurrection?  I look forward to hearing your responses in the comments section below.

Fr. Ryan+

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2012 10:55 am

    Our adult forum read this book a while back. It was quite good, particularly his take on cremation. It was good they read that because a few months later, we had a parishioner die and was cremated, and it was the first time the parish had to deal with “cremains” in a funeral. If really freaked some people out.

    In another funeral just recently, I learned my lesson about “open mic eulogies.” I am going to have to remember that term. I always swore I’d never be the crotchety old priest that didn’t allow any Eulogy whatsoever, but I ended up getting held hostage in the funeral liturgy a few months back because someone who had not cleared it with me got up and started going on and on. Mercifully it ended before I had to cut the person off and be rude. So, I guess I have to stick to my guns the next time and just forbid it by fiat, other than at the reception afterward or something. It’s hard though because that is so expected now in funerals by people only tangentially related to the Church.

    But God is being worshipped, not the deceased.

  2. Mike Fox permalink
    May 16, 2012 10:03 am

    At a Quaker funeral, it is all “open mic”. There is no leader and no structure. It is completely unprogrammed. In that sense it is no different from any other Quaker Meeting for Worship. The idea is to center down and allow messages from God to speak through you. It works remarkable well. Most people tell one short story or share one memory. But it works better for Quakers than for visitors. People who have no experience with a Meeting for Worship do tend to go on and on. This happened once when a very nice lady, best friend of the deceased, ended with “And I know you’re in heaven looking down and I’m coming to join you really soon”. I turned to my daughter and said “I don’t know about her, but I’m willing to wait a while”. God speaks!

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