When someone dies in our congregation, our practice in the next worship service is to stand and observe a moment of silence. The pastor asks the congregation to thank God for the person’s life and witness and to pray for the family left behind. It is a simple gesture of remembrance, honour and companionship in grief. One of the realities of life at Fleetwood CRC, with its larger seniors population is that we have a higher amount of deaths in the congregation. Twice we’ve had a moment of silence for two members who had died that week. Lately we seem to have one every other week.
We started the practice about eight years ago. Around that time we were looking for a liturgical way to acknowledge a death in the congregation. We had thought of commissioning a musician to write a simple song that we could sing. But we didn’t have success with that idea. Then, while in church on a trip to the Netherlands, my family and I were led in the simple practice of observing a moment of silence for a member who had died. We did not know the member nor did we know anyone in the congregation. Yet the pastor acknowledged that even if we didn’t know her we could still give God thanks for her Christian life and witness and pray for her family. We did that and our sense of the fellowship of the saints was just a little bit deeper in that congregation. When we returned to Fleetwood, we suggested this idea and it has become our usual practice when a member dies.
When the pastor asks you to stand and observe a moment of silence for a member who has died, how should you respond?
- With thanks. Our churches are built on the shoulders of those who came before. Their faithfulness and energy have helped us be strong. Give God thanks for the testimony of this saint as part of the testimony of the church.
- With prayer. Grief is often a hard and lonely road to walk. When a family is placed upon it, they need our prayers and support. Pray for comfort and strength for them. Let your prayer for the family be your first step of walking with them in grief. Look for ways to be a support for them afterwards. Ask how they are. Ask the pastor how you might be able to help them.
- With resolve. As a member of Christ’s church, you are called to live your faith and to participate in the fellowship of the saints. It can be unnerving to be reminded as often as we are in our church that you are mortal and that your time on earth is limited. When you observe this moment of silence, resolve to live your life as a follower of Jesus until it is your time to leave this world. You are part of the body of Christ that is the light of the world and we need your light as we continue to shine in this world.
I often hear how families are touched by this practice. Often, families in grief don’t make it to the next church service. But when I tell them of our practice they will watch it on livestreaming. When they see everyone standing, it moves them to feel the love and support of the saints of Christ, even from far away. If they are in church that morning, the sense of love and support is even stronger.
Observing this moment of silence is a blessing not only for those who have lost a loved one, but also for all of us in the congregation. It draws us together before God in compassion, reflection and prayer.