Friday, November 9, 2012

Finding an Answer to a Request

Linking to Michelle
and the Hear It, Use It
Since mid-September, I’ve been trying to get my arms around an editorial request that came my way. I wrote a couple of paragraphs but they didn’t feel right so I deleted them from my flash drive. During the month of October, I told myself I would let the idea simmer in the back of my mind but really, I was ignoring the issue altogether. This week, I found the words. They're not mine, but they're the right ones for the project.

The request came from my pastor in regards to our church website.

“I think it’d be nice to link our Prayer Chain page to the local funeral homes,” he said. “It’d be an easy way for folks to learn details about an upcoming funeral, especially when the church office is closed.”

A simple and appropriate request -- and made on the heels of my suggestion to add a link to CaringBridge, the online journaling site many use to keep in touch with family and friends during a health crises. I left that September meeting pondering how to fulfill both suggestions with sensitivity.

Adding the CaringBridge information was easy and at that time, we had a family in our congregation using it. But how does one write about death on such a public space?
  • How does one balance the journalistic and PR goals of sharing information with the pastoral care and concern that a church website should embody? 
  • And how can I be sensitive to those who scroll down the webpage, first reading about our prayer chain, then about keeping in touch with and encouraging families in crisis, and then about the logistics involved when death occurs?
I ignored the issue for the next six weeks.

Then I read a blog post from one of my online writing friends; the mother of one of her third-grade daughter’s classmates had died.  My job is to just to be here for my daughter,” she wrote, ”to be patient with her as she works her way through her own sadness and fear. I’ll hold her tight and talk and listen and let her know it’s okay to cry.”

Her comments took me back to January, 2011, when one my oldest son’s friends died. In addition to talking with counselors at school, many of those kids grieved publicly, via Facebook, their comments “liked” again and again. That memorial service was filled with as many tears of laughter and love as tears of sadness.

And now, just this past Tuesday, one of my younger son’s classmates passed away. These tears are compounded by the grief our community is still feeling after the sudden death of a teacher this past summer -- a teacher who taught history to many of these high school seniors when they were in 8th grade and who was also a parent of one of their classmates.

On Wednesday, I turned to our Evangelical Lutheran Worship and finally found the words I’d been searching for, and I’ve asked our web manager to create a two-column layout. When our website visitors access our prayer chain page, they'll see A Prayer For Those Who Mourn in the column to the right of the CaringBridge text, not below it at the bottom of the page. 

Death is part of life’s journey; it's not the end. 

A Prayer For Those Who Mourn
As we remember the brevity of life on earth, we share in the grief with those who mourn, trusting that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too, might live a new life. 

O God of grace and glory, we thank you for giving us _______ to know and to love as a companion in our pilgrimage on earth. In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn. Give us faith to see that death has been swallowed up in the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we may live in confidence and hope, until, by your call, we are gathered to our heavenly home in the company of all your saints, thought Jesus Christ our, Savior and Lord.  Amen
From Evangelical Lutheran Worship

An Extra Note: Check out this sermon preached at St. Mark Lutheran Church last week, in celebration of  All Saint’s Day: Tears signal the near approach of God.