Funerals and Perspective

Dear friends,

In the first two months of this year, we have led seven funerals as pastors of St. John’s. In addition, I’ve lost two aunts since January, and we’ve grieved alongside many of you in the deaths of your loved ones.

In two months.

Deaths and funerals are emotionally draining, no doubt. At the same time, they provide room for rich story-telling and family-gathering. It’s been years since I’ve seen my cousin Dee Dee, but we sat next to each other at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church three Saturdays ago as we bid farewell to our Aunt Audrey. It was good to see her.

Funerals have a unique way of gathering us together and putting things in perspective.

One of the things that I love about St. John’s is the sheer number of people involved in funerals. Once we learn of a loved one’s death, a large team of people immediately and unwaveringly begin their assigned tasks: pastoral care, meals, bulletin prep, ushers, flowers, the pall, reception, music, calling members of the funeral choir, preparing the service, arrangements for the columbarium, coordination with the funeral home, and making sure the sanctuary is ready. So many folks involved in a single task: to help escort our loved one from this life into the next.

It’s profound, really.

It also places things in perspective. Here’s what I mean. In January, we began our G2G Campaign, a monumental five-week effort to raise $3.8 million for necessary renovations to our sanctuary building and CDC. We’ve been planning for over a year, and I guess I assumed all along that the world would stand still while we conducted the campaign.

Well, that didn’t happen. And that’s a good thing.

Sure, I’m enormously thankful for the congregation’s response to the campaign. I’m humbled that we’re able to do what many congregations only dream about.

But when I was preparing the eulogy for Janie Allen’s funeral — just 12 days into the campaign — it struck me that what we do best as a community of faith has nothing to do with fundraising or renovating. What we do best is to tell the stories of faith and sing the songs of Zion. We hold the hands of those who grieve and prepare meals for those who are weary. We cry with one another and dance with each other. And occasionally we bid farewell to each other, confidently whispering to God, “Into your hands we now commend your servant.”

I’m truly excited about our G2G campaign. It’s a critically important part of our journey together and will be an exciting chapter in our congregation’s history book.

But even that pales in comparison to those precious times when we hold the hands of loved ones and escort them from this life into the next — crying, remembering, loving, and singing. Always singing.

+Peace to you
Pastor Rhodes


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