With apologies for being tardy this morning, here is our question this week!
Just discovered revgals as I am a candidate in waiting for a call.
My next door neighbor's husband died yesterday and they are both atheists. She wants me to plan a service to be held in a few weeks at the funeral home. They are waiting one of their sons to return from Germany. So where does an unexperienced revgal begin or not begin????
First of all, best wishes to you as you preparing for your first call!
Your neighbor is in need. She’s reached out to your for help. I’d begin there.
If you don’t already know your neighbor well, you’re certainly being provided with an opportunity to get better acquainted and for both of you to determine whether you’re the best person to help her.
You’re being given the gift of some time to have one or more conversations about what she envisions for the service.
You don’t say what your own tradition is as far as worship and theology are concerned. It’s important for you to determine how comfortable you are with her requests.
You’ll learn from a conversation with her what would be helpful, caring and compassionate. Figure out what your conscience and your faith will allow, and see where the Spirit takes you.
And Muthah+ (aka Lauren) writes:
I am an Episcopalian and we have an 'app' for that. You might look at your tradition's ministry to the unbaptized for some help. But most of all you want to provide comfort and help at a time of loss. Meet with the family and find what they need to hear. Poetry, readings that speak of the values that the family appreciates. In one such funeral, we took some of the love letters the spouse had from her husband during the war. Be open to asking them how they want their loved one remembered because you are not only speaking TO them but your are speak THEM to others who will be attending. Let them know that you would generally speak of God and ask them how they want the goodness of the deceased to be expressed. I often invite others in the congregation to speak if it is small gathering.
Finding the value in the deceased is an important thing for them and for you. Hold up those values and speak the goodness that are in them. Get the family to tell you how they appreciated him. When we are speaking of the Good we are also proclaiming God's presence, you just don't have to say so. I try to keep it light, respectful and short. And with a bit of gentle humor if the situation presents itself. Rejoice that she trusts you enough to have you do the funeral. It says volumes about your relationship. The hard work will come weeks from now when she is alone. Then the problems with afterlife, how to remember, etc. will crop up and she will need to ask questions.
And Crimson Rambler offers:
The Anglican Church of Canada in its Book of Occasional Services (the odds and ends that didn't make it into either the Book of Common Prayer OR the Book of Alternative Services) has some very useful prayers and a form for remembering thankfully the life of a person who did not profess the Christian faith... When you feel it might be inappropriate to proclaim the resurrection, there are still useful and helpful things to be said. The link to the Rite online seems to be broken, so I'm including a link to the Episcopal Church equivalent -- I hope -- https://www.riteseries.org/brain/bos/3/54/
You might also want to take a look at a very useful Lutheran text called A Trumpet in Darkness.
I hope that this is helpful. In my experience it has been useful to say, "I will do my best for you" and then ask very carefully about what they WOULD like to hear, ignoring as much as possible the grumbles about what they DON'T want, (usually, "a lot of religion stuffed down our throats")... I remember on one occasion , working with a widow, and making micro-suggestions on behalf of the assembled guests, "Would you mind if I read a bit of Scripture, nothing too long? Would it be all right if I led the Lord's Prayer; I suspect many of the guests will find it familiar?" and little by little, gently, we managed to assemble most of what would have constituted a Christian funeral.
Every blessing on this work...and this new challenge!
Thank you so much, dear matriarchs, for your helpful responses. What about the rest of you? What experience or advice would you offer? Please join the conversation in the comments section. And, as always, send us your questions at askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.