Dealing with death

By Contributor Eric Blauer

Pastor Eric Blauer

Facing death in a faith community is always a difficult experience, especially in a culture where death is both trivialized and avoided with a false sense of reality. People today are flooded with a commercialization of death avoidance that oppresses the aging and lies to the young. This multibillion dollar business machine is promulgating empty promises that leave individuals ill-equipped to manage the passing of someone they love.

As a culture we have too few rituals that help us walk through death. Our funeral services are modern attempts to deal with it, built on traditions passed down for generations. In the faith community it’s a struggle to practically deal with these moments that touch the soul and fabric of the community one lives within.
The Bible calls the community to:, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn,” (Romans 12:15). But we are not given many ways within our modern lives to practically do this.
Cards, sentiments and services help to a certain degree but I find it hard to process this within the faith community. To help with this, recently I put together a simple candle ritual for the recognition of the passing of a loved one within the congregation.

Photo by Eric Blauer

I lit one large candle to represent the life of the loved one. Then I had the congregants who have recently lost loved ones light their own candles from the flame of the single candle. I shared how the light of their life has impacted them and they can carry the light of that influence from this moment on into the future. We then extinguished the single candle to represent their loved one’s death and as the smoke ascended, I read  Hebrews 12:1, “we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” and talked about that ‘great cloud of witnesses’ our loved ones have taken their place within and how we all will be reunited in the age to come. We then placed the lit candles on the altar for the rest of the service and prayed over the grieving members.

It was short ceremony, but the presence of the holy spirit was tangible within the heart of the moment. Their pain wasn’t taken away but it was shared in a simple ritual that we all could experience. It felt good and right to create a time and space to mourn together  in the church and I pray a measure of healing for those grieving.  We are working at ways to express our shared journey, even through the valley of the shadow of death.
 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die,” Ecclesiastes 3:1
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