I take no credit for this blog. Below you will find a reflection written by my good buddy, The Reverend Erin Martin, about a unique experience she had at a funeral. This was originally written up as a Facebook post and placed on a clergy forum. After some coaxing, she has allowed me place it here. Following her post is a small point to ponder; a question that arose from some of the comments on the clergy forum.
Please give a warm welcome to my good friend, Erin.
“I was part of the strangest funeral on November 11th. . .
I received a call at about noon from a man who said his grandmother had died and he was afraid no one had made any arrangements. Could I please meet them at the cemetery at 2:00pm? I didn’t want them to have to go it alone so I agreed, knowing nothing about the family or the deceased.
When I got there, I saw another priest – I believe he was Eastern Orthodox. He introduced himself to me as Father Johann (“that’s John” he kept saying to me every time he said his name). Both of us were confused as to why we were there. He had gotten the same type of call earlier that day. It turned out that two sides of the family were at war with each other, and they wanted to have their own funerals. Father Johann (that’s John) was going first, and I was to go second.
After a few minutes, Father Johann (that’s John) came to me and said, “Jesus would want this family to be reconciled, we are going to do the service together. For Jesus!” It sounded like a battle cry. I shouted ‘For Jesus!’ too.
So we did a mixture of his service and mine – he assumed all of the priestly parts – possibly because I am girl and also, not Orthodox, but I really don’t mind. I was too busy trying to keep it together because the two sides of the family were giving us the sink-eye for not giving them separate services. At the end of the service, Father Johann (that’s John) lectured them on reconciliation and how they owed it to their loved one to come together. He also mentioned the soldiers who also died for them to have the freedom to reconcile. It was really good to see this in action. He was kind yet really firm.
The two of us stayed after the service to facilitate some discussion over the remains of other family members that they wanted to place in the same plot. Miracle of miracles, there was some reconciliation that took place. Father Johann (that’s John) was a reconciliation badass!
The grandson tried to pay me, but I declined the money. I hadn’t really done anything or prepared anything, and honestly . . .the entertainment value was worth it. Maybe next time I’ll be able to be a reconciliation badass in my own right.”
Reconciliation in this family, in the small manner it occurred, only happened because two priests chose to stand in the mess of conflict and call each side of waring faction to healing and wholeness. They risked ‘stink-eyes’ and possible insult in order to preach the Gospel and enact the ministry of reconciliation – a ministry to which we have all been called.
What does it mean for us to be agents of reconciliation? How might we work to bring healing to the hurting families and individuals that we know in our lives?