Today I will spend most of my time preparing a funeral sermon for a man who departed this earthly life too soon in the eyes of many. I have the privilege of preaching a word of hope into the midst of the grief of family members and friends. The sermon I prepare is the culmination of several days of planning and coordination for the funeral, and there is something that I am still in a bit of shock over.
For my congregation member's funeral will not be held here in Cat Spring. Most of his family and friends live in and around a small city in South Texas. To make life a little easier for them, the service will be held down there. Of course, they wanted the funeral to be held in a church, and this is where my shock begins.
The family's first choice of facilities was the church the couple was married in. The deceased's mother-in-law had been a life-long member of this congregation until she passed away a year or so ago. The family contacted the congregation's pastor, and he, in turn contacted me. I was under the impression I heard the following:
"We can help you out, but it is the church's policy that we will need a letter from your congregation asking for the use of our sanctuary. The letter will have to be approved by our council."
When my congregation member died, I sent such a letter requesting the use of the facilities. I sent the letter Sunday afternoon, the day after his death. I was told by email later that evening, "There shouldn't be a problem." Yet, I heard no confirmation by the next morning with a service pending on Wednesday. The family needed information and confirmation so that they could get word to family, friends, and the local newspapers. As the minutes ticked by, they went to plan B--seeking out another facility.
They called another congregation. Again, I received a call from that congregation's pastor. The phone calls could not have been much different.
"We're all about Jesus here," the pastor said. "Whatever we can do to help you minister to this family, we will do. You will need the sound system. You will need x. You will need y. I look forward to meeting with you and helping you get acclimated to everything once you get here."
No hoops to jump through.
No approval needed.
Simply a willing heart to help fellow brothers and sisters in Christ grieve and proclaim the message of salvation and hope.
This is a true tale. I could name names, but remembering my last posting, I will not. What I will do is offer my hope that those who are members of various congregations who read this posting will seek to ensure their congregations are "all about Jesus", welcoming those who are hurting, seeking to minister together with others, and giving a space for the Gospel to be proclaimed--even if those attending and those preaching are not members of that particular congregation.