Friday, October 20, 2006

AND IN CLOSING . . . *

Well THAT was fun. I haven't had so much activity around here since . . . hmmm . . . since . . . oh yeah! . . . since the discussion about women priests.

So the tally looks like this: Four people (Mary, Young Fogey, Mark and myself) are anti-eulogy people. Three people (Tripp, David and Da Youth Guy) are in the pro-eulogy camp. And one person (Ryan) said it depends.

There were several issues/comments raised in this whole thing, so I'll answer them here rather than in the comment section of the previous post.

Young Fogey and I don't agree on everything (women priests for instance), but this is one area where we do. He says, "One of my rants is that modern church funerals have become de facto canonisations . . ." One of the problems with a service of eulogies, as I see it, is that we miss out on the message of resurrection. We miss out on the certainty "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Mark mentioned the prodding officiant and open mic problem. This really seems to be at the heart of my earlier rant. Not the eulogies, per say, but that the officiant kept prodding people to come forward. Well, that and his inability to stop talking.

David (who is pro-eulogy) and Ryan (who said it depends) seem to be saying much the same thing. Eulogies can add something wonderful to the service. A personal touch that can be extremely meaningful. And it can. I officiated at the funeral of a well-loved man in town who had driven school bus for years. The funeral was huge. It was in the gym. They played "Born Free" (really). But the wife allowed five friends to give eulogies. That would seem to be the better way to go. To have a person or people set aside who would deliver the eulogy. Much preferable than open mic. It's that "personal touch, if done right," as David said that's the clincher. If done right.

And my dear brother Tripp told me to lighten up. But then he also said, "The real concerns about manipulation or coercing people into speaking should be addressed. But no service has a time limit, not really. No sermon has a time limit, not really. We can suggest, imply, and pray fervently that we not have to listen to a 55 minute series on the life and times of brother Bob. But in the end, the service does not belong to the presider...it belongs to those who gather and to God."

He's right. It doesn't belong to me. But I got the distinct impression that the officiant was trying to make it his. From the continual prodding in an attempt for more eulogies to the homily that wouldn't end because he had "just one more thing to say," this funeral was very much about making the officiant feel good.

And Da Youth Guy said about his mother's funeral, "We heard from folks who loved mom why they had loved her. In that we shared our grief at losing her. What better place that in a place of faith to do that? Or is church really just about the liturgy?" You can't separate church and liturgy. Liturgy is how we do church. It's how we pray. It's how we worship. It's how we come together as a community. Liturgy is the work of the people. And prodding people to give eulogies to fill up space is poor liturgy.

So in closing, if eulogies are in your tradition, so be it. But please don't continually prod people to speak. If you've offered an open mic and asked for people to come forward, people will eventually quit lining up to talk. When that happens, let it end and move on. And please don't ramble through your homily, continually finding "just one more thing" to say.

And with that, I will now continue packing for my trip to Chicago.

4 comments:

Reverend Ref + | 11:47 PM, October 20, 2006  

* I had to repost this because my original post disappeared. This re-post is pretty close to the original.

Bruno | 10:03 AM, October 21, 2006  

an evening in hell, at my fathers rosary (roman church) the priest asked for any one who wanted to speak to step up to the podium,, well this was NOT asked for by my mother or me, I was stunned and hoped nobody would get up. This was not to be,, my brother in law,,who to soften his grief had consumed the better part of a bottle of tequila before the service, decided to get up and talk about "dad".. well my partner and I sat there thinking who is this man he is talking about!! and why is this rant important to anyone, the picture painted by his liquor soaked speach was.. well lets say less than representational of "dad" and more about him and his father. Well, the family was stunned and all looked at me when he finished speaking, pleading with me to do something. So I got up, I did not want to, but I could not let those who came to mourn and pray, leave with this image as their evening closed. The next morning at the funeral several guests came up to me to ask if they could speak at the funeral, they wanted to refute the speach given by my brother in law the night before, they were all quite concerned and were upset that dad might be remembered as the man described through tequila soaked eyes. I had given the priest explicit orders to not have an "open mic" and told them so.
Any way. long story short, my chance to be with the liturgy of the funeral was taken away from me and my mother by an officiant who needed to be liked or hep or whatever, I want no one speaking at my funeral, just liturgy done well.

Anonymous | 9:56 AM, October 23, 2006  

i subscribe to the traditional irish liturgical strategy... formal, somber mass... followed by party with endless amounts of eulogies.

EYouthWNY | 10:35 AM, October 23, 2006  

I completely agree on the prodding people to speak.

And while I understand and agree with your definition of what liturgy is supposed to be I've seen too many cases where it was less about the work of the people and more about "performing" the ritual.

Which it now dawns on me is the word I meant to use originally.

Mea culpa.

Have a great week.

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