There was once a church community where, over several months, some people died.These were all people whose involvement with the church was not every Sunday, either because they were elderly and in care, or because they worked on Sundays, or they had moved away or it was no longer their thing.
When these ones died, there was no email sent around the congregation telling everyone. There were no photos up to remind the community of them.
There was a sense that ‘church community’ only meant those who attended regularly.
But hang on, isn’t the Christian community founded on remembering? “Take this in remembrance of me” are words commonly heard. Did this community remember that not only were those in church part of the community, but also those whose paths had ever crossed the church? Those who used to attend until they moved away, or became frail, or had to work?
Maybe the leaders thought no one would remember them. But people do remember, especially if there’s a photo to jog the memory.
“Oh, I never saw him at church, but I used to do Pilates with his wife.”
“Oh yes, I don’t remember her in the service but she used to come to community lunches.”
“Oh yes, my kids went to school with his kids” – these are all some of the responses we may hear as we jog people’s memories.
When we say in the Nicene Creed that ‘we believe in the communion of saints’ we are including all those who have ever been part of our church community whether separated from us by death, or by the contingencies of life. Maybe Christian communities can look at themselves, to see how to strengthen these bonds of family – consciously reminding us of our no-longer-near friends, and if they need prayer, praying for them, and if they die, doing their memory the honour of holding it as precious.
After all, we remember the One on whom our hope is founded -let’s remember others closer to our time too, and look forward to joining with them again in the future.