A couple of weeks ago the parish faced a difficult funeral of a long-time and intensely loved parishioner. The following day we baptized and welcomed to the family a new and highly anticipated parishioner. As a clergy person I felt so many emotions preparing these two services. I’m happy for my deceased parishioner that he has gone to join his maker and his beloved wife, I am grieving for my parish and their loss, I am so excited to welcome a new saint into our parish family and to watch him grow in his Christian life. There was so much happening and I wasn’t sure how to knit it all together in my heart and mind.
Yes, yes, I know all the theological and intellectual importance of these two events but to be honest with you, sometimes what you feel emotionally and what you know theologically and intellectually aren’t the same. It takes time to move from what we feel to what we know- and folks, that takes time. I know it can often seem that clergy don’t feel a whole lot, or that we can be distant from some of these emotions. That isn’t true- we feel deeply but at the same time I take very seriously my call to hold a sacred and safe space for people to work out their faith and their feelings. For me, processing my feelings cannot really begin until the liturgy has passed. So now I am processing all of those feeling with you. Lucky you!
Our parish is blessed to have many banners created by my deceased parishioner’s wife. For the funeral we hung all the banners around the church. One hangs above our baptismal font and the following day I stood in the shadow of that banner and welcomed a new saint into our family through the sacrament of baptism. As I stood beneath that banner and poured water over that baby I cannot describe to you the powerful emotions I felt. It wasn’t just our current parishioners welcoming this new saint but I could feel all the past saints smiling upon this child. It made real for me the promise of the saints- past, present and yet to come.
With every loss of a parishioner I grieve in a different way. When I lost a 25 year-old woman to cancer I donated my hair. After losing a parishioner who gifted me with 5 pounds of pecans every Christmas I spent the day candying pecans. I know these don’t seem traditional or “normal” ways to grieve but for me they give me a chance to focus on my personal relationship with the person and they give me space to process my loss in my own way. One of the things Dick and I shared was a love for coffee; especially espresso. He introduced me to the best places in the area to have coffee. So as I grieve my loss of Dick and what this means for myself and my parish I am writing this letter to you curled up in a leather chair in Dick’s favorite coffee shop with a cappuccino at my elbow. For you, Dick, it’s a double.