Of all the difficulties in the last year, this one may be the most painful. And ready for your ministry.
With COVID, our rituals and practices around death have been cut short. Or cut off entirely. Grieving folks have been denied the usual comforts of visitation hugs, shared story-telling meals, and everybody-come funerals. Loved ones couldn’t leave home or return home for these events. And while Zoom does some things well, this is not one of them. Information can’t replace interaction. Digital platforms can’t replace sacred space.
So that’s where your small congregation comes in. To meet this new need with compassion and creativity. By offering a “Community Remembrance Week” at your church.
Here’s how it works. Pick a week. Like the first week of November—right after All Saints Day, perhaps. Or Thanksgiving week. To give thanks for a loved one. Then offer your church’s sacred space and hospitality to anyone needing a better opportunity to grieve and celebrate this life.
Here are some ideas to get started:
- Set up tables in or around the sanctuary for mourners to place pictures and memorabilia for the week.
- Include candles on and around the altar for people to light.
- Arrange a place of quiet or play meditative music for anyone needing sanctuary.
- Provide hospitality: a greeter, simple food and drink, places to sit and visit.
- Have someone on site praying for each person and family.
- Offer additional pastoral leadership as requested.
Then create an invitation. Like the one below. And distribute it widely. Not just to your congregation. But to the whole community. Go to funeral homes. Go to families who’ve lost loved ones. Go to school counselors, hospice workers, hospital chaplains. Share it at quilting groups, coffee clubs. Post it at grocery stores, local work places. Talk it up. Anywhere there might be grieving folks. Including ones you don’t even know.
Community Remembrance Open House
November 1-7 [or Thanksgiving Week]
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Each day.
We know this has been a hard year.
If you’ve lost a loved one and did not get to honor their life
fully because of COVID, we would like to help.
During the week of November 1-7, our sanctuary will be open for
Community Remembrance. For anyone. For you!
Come and go as you like.
With tables set up for you to decorate and display photos.
With candles for you to light and give thanks.
With a quiet space for you to sit and remember.
If you’d like our pastor’s help, let us know.
Or if you’d like a special kind of remembrance, let us know.
We expect nothing from you in return.
Times are hard.
You are welcomed here.
We are with you.
Call xxx-xxx-xxxx with any questions.
You’ll adapt the specifics. But the goal is to be as broadly welcoming as possible. Without strings attached.
Reach out to your pastor or lay leaders today to begin imagining this event. Who should you talk to next?
And as you plan, remember this. Ministry has never been risk free. It requires leaps. Guesses. Vulnerability. It demands seeking out hurting folks without the guarantee of a “successful” event.
You may have too many people. Or one. Or none.
But all of these outcomes can be holy. All can reveal the kingdom already among you. Because even for those not walking through your doors, you’ve practiced the persistence of loving them well. And you’ve made something a little more gospel-clear for others: Each one matters. Just as they are. No memberships or credentials required. This is what God’s style of grace-filled love-in-action looks like.
Let me know what you’re learning. I cherish the conversations.
Thank you for your ministry,
Continue the conversation with me at Teresa@SmallChurch.org