Saturday, October 5, 2013

Funerals at Former Churches

I spent the last part of the week hearing about the decline and death of a member at the church to which I belonged before I changed to my current church,  I was not particularly close to the member, but she did remind me of my grandmother, with her intense Carolina accent, her clothes, the food she brought to pot luck dinners.

The funeral is next week, and there's been some Facebook chat about who will make her banana pudding.  I don't like banana pudding, but I still feel some pangs.

Someone should write a book about the etiquette involved in changing churches.  Someone should write that book, but it won't be me.  But if a book existed, I'd want there to be a chapter on deciding whether or not to go to funerals.  If I'm not currently part of the church community, but I was, should I go?  If I feel a bit of sadness at the loss of a member who was an essential part of a Sunday School class I taught long ago, should I go?  Would I be welcome or is it better not to risk upsetting people who still don't understand why I switched churches?

And yes, I do understand that it's not about me at all, that most people will not even have any of these thoughts flit across their minds.

Truth be told, I have trouble knowing when to attend funerals, whether it's at current churches or former churches.  I'm lucky in that the only people I've lost so far have been older family members.  My friends at churches past and present are still living.

Sometimes I feel I should go to the funerals of older church members as a matter of respect.  Other times, I suspect it doesn't really matter to the family.  Often the family members aren't even there:  the church service is for the church and community members who knew the member while the church member lived down here, far away from family.

I've written before about funerals and their effect on me, most recently in this post.  I like the recalibrating effect of funerals with their reminder that we're not here very long.  But I will probably not go to the funeral at my former church.

What I'd really like is not a funeral, per se, but more ways to connect, and reconnect, to other area Lutherans.  We've done a bit with joint projects; my favorite was a music event for youth held at my former church (see this post for more).

What I'd really like is a way to live in closer community with fellow believers.  I'd like to have regular meals together, not just receptions when one of us dies or monthly pot luck dinners:  those events often feel more hectic to me, with less opportunity for deep conversation, or conversation of any kind.

Closer community--that's a subject worth writing a book about.

1 comment:

Robin said...

If I hear about them and am able, I always go to the funerals of people who were important to me, regardless of where they are. Now that I'm a pastor, I would not go to the funeral of a member in a former church -- not that I have a former church yet -- but I switched from a UMC church to a Presby church many years ago and always maintained cordial relationships and in some cases very close friendships with the folks in my former church. In fact, I went to an event there last week-end and was greeted with a warm hug from the pastor.

I think that in most cases it means a great deal to family members if you go to a funeral or at least to the calling hours beforehand. Even if the funeral follows a sudden tragedy and the family seems almost catatonic, they will read the guest books later and be grateful to a degree you may never know.