Next week I have my first funeral with a burial! I met with the bereaved son last week to talk about his dad who died over a week ago.
I remember at college people telling me that funeral ministry was a very fulifiling part of their work and it being a privilege coming alongside people at their deepest need and grief. I have to be honest and say that I thought these people were crazy because for me, death, dying and in particular funerals was the one area of ministry I was most afraid of - in my own mind it was the scariest because it could go so so wrong.
What I have found so far in this particular part of my ministry is that helping people through this difficult time of bereavement is indeed a privilege. They have decided to come to you for a funeral service and as ministers we have an opportunity to talk with, pray with and listen to people usually at the sharp end of their pain and hurt at the loss of their loved one. I may have gone mad myself in coming to this way of thinking but for me this aspect of ministry is an opportunity to sit down with a person and look back on a life and hear the amazing stories that they hold. I firmly believe that we are all story tellers because we all have had experiences and sitting with a person and learning about another human being is particularly special.
Next week we will gather for a funeral where several things will happen. It will be my opportunity to offer the message of love and hope of a God who is in control and has given us an assurance that in His Son, Jesus death is not the end. People will share more stories, read poems, listen to special pieces of music. We will pray together and ultimately family and friends will say goodbye to someone special but with them they take home the stories, memories both happy and sad and experiences that have been shared but will stay with them forever.
My job (I think) is to be. Say little. Listen. Be Jesus for the family and friends that have gathered to remember and say goodbye. I will offer them that hope that God is with them and knows their pain.
I'll let you know how it goes!