Saturday, March 1, 2008

What in God's Name

There is a story that I cannot get out of my mind since I heard it yesterday. I saw an old acquaintance at a career day that I was presenting at. She was presenting too. We used to both attend the same church. We both left, she and her husband for another Episcopal Church, me to embark upon the road to Methodism. So I asked her how they liked their new church. Awkward smile. The story followed.
Her husband has only one sister. His parents are deceased. This sister is all the family that he has. Their families were very close, always have been. The sister was diagnosed with cancer, and after a very long and courageous battle, the young mother left this world. The two families were devastated. Her two children were young teens. There is no good time to lose a mom, but the teenage years are hard enough without this.
This young mother had planned her funeral. She asked her brother to sing a song that she loved. He said, "I won't be able to sing at your funeral. Please don't ask me to do that, because I won't be able to do it." And she assured him that just playing that song from his latest CD would be fine. She just wanted this at her funeral. And so he agreed. She wanted bagpipes. Her brother is in a Celtic band, and they promised to provide the music. There were other plans, and other promises, but they were between her husband and her, and I did not hear that part of the story.
It was a long fight, but it ended. She died. And family went to their priest with the her funeral plans. And the minister said, "I am not comfortable with bagpipers in my church. The band can play in front of the church, but not inside." The song she wanted for her final trip out the door of the church was nixed. The priest would not have recorded music in his church. There were other restrictions. The preacher had a very strong idea what a funeral should be like, and he did not like the 'personalization' of this one. The young widower turned to his brother in law and said, "I can't. I just can't deal with this" and he walked out of that church.
Long story short, a Methodist preacher in town heard about this, contacted the family, told them that the funeral was for the family, and for the friends, and he opened his church to the family. He did the funeral just as the family wanted it, reading the burial mass from The Book of Common Prayer, even though he was of a different faith. Anne had her bagpipes. Anne's brother's recorded voice sang a song that promised that they would all meet again, even as her brother wept for his sister. There were so many people there that it was lucky that it was held at the bigger church. They all would not have fit in their own.
I listened to this story and it made me so very sad. Both families have left their church. A teenage boy is enraged at the faith that abandoned him when he needed it the very most. This will probably change, profoundly, his view of religion as a whole. This is the saddest story that I've ever heard, and I wonder over and over, what in God's name was this young priest thinking?


A said...

It makes me sad when I see the damage that closed minds can do. What a shame that the first priest could not see past his own little bubble and didn't have enough faith in the bigger picture.
What a beautiful resolution, though. I hope that the open heart and mind of the Methodist preacher offers some comfort.

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