Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Bring Out Your Dead
It was all good stuff. In the morning we had a three-fer adult baptism -- we've been seeing a lot of those lately -- so church ran long. After a quick lunch and an errand in the neighborhood, we were back in church that afternoon for a half informational meeting/half brainstorming session on how our church "does" funerals and how we can help families, both in the church and those with little or no connection to our parish, during a time of transition in our society -- largely based on economics -- regarding how we care for our dead.
Our pastor thinks that families are increasingly choosing, or being forced by economics, to take back more responsibility for caring for their dead; finding alternatives to funeral-home-planned funerals and burials; having to do more with less time and less money. So part of our discussion was about our church's capacity for assuming some of that burden; offering to host visitations at our church, for instance. We talked about the increasing popularity of cremation and increasing tendency for people's remains to wind up somewhere other than a cemetery, and how a columbarium and/or a memorial wall and/or memorial garden might be a creative way to respond to that as well as to ease the pressure on our rapidly filling church graveyard.
We also began talking about how to assist our unchurched neighbors in bereavement while at the same time providing some guidance and boundaries in terms of funeral protocol (as in, "Highway to Hell" as funereal hymn, tequila shots in memory of the deceased and other DIY rituals are not appropriate elements of a Christian funeral) and cost-sharing. We can pull off a pretty cheap funeral for a truly financially hurting family; but there are other equally thrifty alternatives in our community, so we don't want to become patsies for people who pretty much want to throw Gramps into the nearest hole and fuggetaboutit.
Spending almost two hours talking about subjects like the logistics of hosting the dead in our sanctuary overnight ("Might not be a good idea on a lock-in weekend," someone deadpanned) might not sound like the most pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon...but Fellow Traveler and I came away from this feeling like our congregation is going through some good, healthy growing pains that are goading us into better people and a better faith community.