“I don’t know how anyone can go through this without a community of faith,” is a statement I often hear as people sit vigil with a dying loved one or are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. I agree that having a community to support us in trying and tough times with a spirit of love and hope makes all the difference. When the psalmist said: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18 NRSVUE) the way the Lord draws near is often through our church family.
Here are ways we care for each other when facing grief:
We show up and do not turn away from the pain and discomfort of grief. We bring meals. We offer our condolences. We put away trite statements like “they’re in a better place’ and instead share how we will miss the deceased, too. We celebrate All Saints Sunday. We call to check in on each other. We knit prayer shawls and squares. We offer support groups. We serve cookies and coffee. We prepare the church for memorial and funeral services and provide hospitality for grieving guests. We name the deceased in our worship and include the bereaved in our prayers. We share memories and give each other the space we need to grieve in our own unique ways. We offer memorial gifts and dedicate them to service in the church. We provide and tend the memorial garden. In these ways, and more, the truth of Jesus’ beatitude, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” becomes a reality.
So, I do not know how people go through death and dying without a community of faith. In fact, this is just one more reason for what we can offer the world as a church. We offer comfort. We offer the assurance that no one is alone. We embody God’s promise from Deuteronomy “the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.”
I’m glad we are a part of this community of faith together!