Monday, July 21, 2014

Same pew, different church

Born and bred Methodist, I recognized early that part of the Method was not to be too flamboyant about the practice of religion.  Through childhood into young manhood, I sat through hundreds - thousands - of sermons, ceremonies and Sunday School lessons and never heard a raised voice, never saw a raised hand or heard any instrument besides an organ or the occasional acoustic guitar or lute for "folk services."

And none of those services ran for more than three hours, or, frankly, left me wanting more of the soul-cleansing music and words like I heard at the Baptist homegoing of our dear Deanna the other day at the Mt Sinai Baptist Church in Lansdowne, PA.

At the service, there was music, with many, many voices accompanied by, yes, an organ, but also electric guitar and bass, and drums. And this was the loud, spirit-lifting, animated of the bases of what the kids call "rock and roll," ya know?

Take away the music, and you can say the same for the preaching. This was not the "Verily, I say unto you..." sort of preaching, no sir.  This was the impassioned importuning of men leading their flock to see that their beloved Deanna has served her mission on earth and was called home.  These were the words of men who reminded us that yes, this loss is tough and it will cause pain, but not to worship the pain, to keep an eye on those better tomorrows.  The sort of funeral (that word wasn't even used on Saturday, in favor of the far more appropriate "homegoing") I am used to was all about lugubrious tones of " from dust we come and to dust we go," which is fine for as far as it goes, but it fails to celebrate what we do between those dusty days.

No.  What we attended the other day was a celebration of the life of a woman who, in the words of Pastor Thomas, "didn't have time for bitterness."  In the year or so that we knew her, we never saw Deanna say a bad word for or about any one or any thing. 

She and her goodness are up above now, along with another friend of mine and my Mom.  This triumvirate of loss since April comes to an end now, and no service or private contemplation can change that.  I'm not a man given to grieving, believing that heaven is its own reward for believers, but the service Peggy and I attended on Saturday showed me a new way to regard death. Every church, every person, has their own way of saying farewell, but I have to say, I like this emphatic sort of service.  People were involved, singing along, calling out as they wished, getting on their feet and moving to the spirit.  

In the staid, sobersided services of my childhood, if anyone left their pew, it was assumed that they had fallen asleep and slid off. Again, not a criticism.  There are different ways of doing things. What we saw Saturday was soul-stirring.

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