Monday, May 18, 2009

My first funeral

Monday morning of last week got off to an unexpected start.  My senior pastor stopped by my office and told me that three people connected to our congregation died this week. He was swamped with funeral preparations and with our Care Pastor in the hospital and unavailable, he asked if I would step in and perform one of the funerals.  I reluctantly said yes and for the next twenty-five minutes, I got a crash course in how to conduct a funeral.  

On Tuesday, I met with the widow and her oldest daughter.  I wrote the eulogy on Wednesday, met with my senior pastor for another brief preparation session that afternoon, and performed the funeral on Thursday morning.  

The experience was surreal.  I never met the man I was eulogizing.  His wife attended our church but he never came with her.  Fortunately, the family shared enough about him during our Tuesday morning meeting that I felt like I was able to honor him well.  Halfway through the service, during one of the hymns, I unexpectedly found my eyes welling up with tears.  I found myself torn:  do I let the grief and sadness wash over me and express empathy with the family, or do I pull back and lead the funeral.  I opted for the latter and hoped I didn't seem uncaring.  Someone had to lead this community of family and friends through the grief process and the closure of a funeral and burial and I figured that was my job.

I can't remember the last time I felt so alone and so invisible.  The family rightly focused their attention on the grieving matriarch, offered her comfort and support, and (rightly as well) ignored me.  My role was to serve.  But this was my first funeral and I wanted someone to comfort me and encourage me through this difficult task.  I prayed and begged God to speak through me and empower me to serve this group of grieving friends and family and honor the life of one they loved so much.

I felt honored to be able to serve this family in their time of need and intimidated by how small I felt in such a huge role as presiding over a funeral and leading prayer at a graveside.  It was definitely an experience I'll never forget.


Beav said...

loved your thoughts and reflections here brian. I can't think of a more sacred moment of ministry. Funerals bring us face to face with the hard realities of life and our finiteness and of course the eternal destiny issues.

I can see you doing a great job in those moments helping people connect to the Lord and see the meaning and significance in such moments. Very humbling for sure.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just googled "pastor's first funeral" and this came up. I'm doing my first one on thursday. Like you, i don't know the person, i know her family. i'm a bit nervous, but I know God will see me through it. In the end, it's not about me, it's about this family, i just want to serve them. Thanks for your posting here, it was helpful. If u have any more tips, let me know!

Alice Jones said...

Good thoughts!!! I like your article.
That's very nice. Thanks for your nice posting. Good Luck!!!!!!