One of the greatest blessings of ministry is getting to be with people in the most tender and awe-filled moments of their lives. I treat rites of passage with great love and care. They are numinous moments, made holy by our coming together to mark them. They reaffirm our covenants with life and with one another, reminding us of our “place in the family of things.” Wherever it is appropriate to laugh, I encourage laughter. Wherever it is appropriate to cry, I encourage tears. Most times, it is appropriate to do both, and I encourage both.
Doing memorial services is one of the things I most love about ministry. To be allowed to go behind the scenes of a particular human life, is an amazing privilege. To be with a family as they mourn a loss is to witness human love at its deepest and most powerful.
Here is what one widow wrote to me after her husband’s memorial service (shared with her permission):
“It was a memorable service and we have your organizational skills as well as your commanding presence, purposeful and reassuring at the same time, to thank for it. Your sensitive insights into the needs of individual family members, and your diligent biographical “research” resulted in the superb homily, so well put together and so well delivered. Quite honestly, I didn’t want to come, fearing that I would lose control, but you set a tone, solemn, but not tearful, and I somehow sensed your support and your concern as to how I was bearing up as the service progressed. So many people have told me that they had never been to a more meaningful memorial service—certainly every member of our family agreed with that statement—up to and including my born-again brother!” —Mary Lee Orr
Here are some sample memorial services and weddings.