Saturday, February 11, 2012

I attended a memorial service for a friend at a non-Catholic church this afternoon. I received a program which I didn't look over until I got back home. I'll find a meaningful book to stash the program into, maybe an early edition of the English Standard Version of the Bible.

I took a seat near the front of the church, about four rows back, near women I knew. With the exception of the widower who was accepting condolences at the entrance, the family was already seated. I caught a glimpse of the deceased's sister and my heart stopped at the resemblance. She gave a remembrance and her voice was so similar. I realized then that I'd miss very basic things about her: her voice, her mannerisms, her personality.

The calm confidence with which the pastor entered made me well up. I thought to myself, "This is the man who's supposed to have all the answers," but I know he doesn't. He doesn't even pretend to.

The service was definitely focused wholly on Jesus and the Christian faith. Yes, those who gave reflections on her life talked about her almost exclusively but one couldn't talk about her without reference to God. That was the nature of her life. We sang "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," my first time with that well-known hymn and I'd be happy to never sing it again. Dreary song. We prayed the Lord's Prayer which was fine. And a duo sang "Come, Thou Font of Every Blessing" which I wish all those gathered could have joined in on - I like that song so much.

The final song was "Amazing Grace" and contemporary Christian music has done so much to that song that the original must be distinguished as "traditional." The final verse on that one always chokes me up; I can't wait.

When the service ended, I lingered in the sanctuary for quite a while, greeting people and listening to their reactions. I eventually made my way downstairs to a light reception. The church building has undergone recent renovation, including a new sanctuary and church hall underneath. This was my first time in the church hall which is more like a banquet hall. A woman who knows says they're trying to rent the space out to private parties. Of course, then it might not be available for the congregation at times like this. Churches are in need of revenue these days but they must watch their non-profit status as well.