Nobody WANTS to go to a funeral. But after this past year and a half where many of us have been unable to go to one, how many of us have found ourselves grieving not only the loss of the person, but the loss of the ability to grieve like normal.
On November 7, Shawnee Park in Grand Rapids, MI, held a late afternoon worship service of “prayer, readings, remembrance and hope.” This additional service was held at Shawnee, but offered to their surrounding community as a way to come together and grieve losses—those that were recent and fresh and those that linger from long ago. The church was full and many of the attendees were not church members.
“Everyone has suffered a lot of loss—not just a spouse or a relative, but also the loss of being able to grieve with other people when someone dies.” says Worship Director, Barb Banaszak. “The ritual of a funeral helps people to remember—not only remember the life of the person who died, but remember the event in a significant way with memories of closure and saying goodbye.”
Attendees brought their own candles and were invited to light them and share memories or testimonies. Several testimonies were solicited ahead of time, including members who recently lost loved ones. The mic was then open for those who wanted a chance to participate and share while lighting their candle. The service also included Scripture and song, readings and prayer.
While Shawnee Park CRC hopes to never have to do another one of these services, they are grateful for the opportunity to come together as a community of faith and minister to those within their walls and those outside in their darkest times of grief.
Their service, including notes from Pastor Darrin Compagner, is below. A service like this could easily be adapted to fit your local context. It could even be the framework for a “Longest Night/Blue Christmas” service, typically held on December 21 (the longest night of the year).
Consider offering a worship service like this in the coming months as we as faith communities continue to deal with the effects of Covid 19 and grow weary of ongoing loss and grief.
There is much pastoral wisdom in offering hearts a space to grieve, an opportunity to remember and a reminder of hope. May God be close to all who are broken-hearted.