AC19: Memorial Service 'Letting Go'

Friends and loved ones were invited to add sand to the vessel. See more photos in the gallery at right

June 14, 2019

The 2019 Annual Conference remembered and honored those who have gone on to the church triumphant at the annual Memorial Service, Friday morning, June 14.

From the liturgy:
In this moment, we remember and celebrate the lives and work of those who have passed this year. As we remember, it is fitting to incorporate and invoke the spirit of Dia de los Muertos. This is a complex observance that holds the capacity for joy and sadness, laughter and tears, celebration and mourning.

To those who weep and still feel the sting of loss and who struggle with sadness and longing for those whom we have lost,  “We see you, we hear you, and we grieve with you.”

Following the Latinx traditions, when the names of those who have passed were read, the community responded with  “recordamos,” which means “we remember.”

Guest Preacher and Bible study leader the Rev. Dr. Elaine Heath preached the sermon for this year’s memorial titled
“Letting Go,” based on Laminations 3:19-33

“There is no other book in the Bible that surpasses Lamentations in teaching us to be honest with our grief,” she said.

“And to actually grieve in the presence of God, and that becomes our prayer. To come to know deeply, viscerally, that God grieves with us.”

Dr. Heath said the physical response to grief is like that of fear – with the same surge of adrenaline, the sleeplessness, restlessness and inability to get comfortable.

“The sense of being at home is gone when someone we love deeply has died,” Dr. Heath said. “So Lamentations is our book of grief. How much is caused by God and how much simply happens, all those questions are in Lamentations.”

Because even as people of faith and religious leaders, Dr. Heath said, we can question whether God feels our pain. And the answer, she said, is there in Lamentations:

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning …”

“Somehow in our grief, every morning, new mercy is given, and we live into our new future,” Dr. Heath said. “We’ll never forget the ones we love; we’ll never quite get over the grief and the loss, and we shouldn’t, but the verses help us find a new morning.”

We have this promise in Psalm 56 verse 8 that is so incredibly precious:

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your record?

“Not one tear is lost. Not one tear is forgotten,” she said.

Dr. Heath also read Mary Oliver’s poem “In Blackwater Woods”

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
to let it go.
The family and friends of those being remembered were invited to add colored sand into a cylinder, “representing the life of each while honoring their unique presence within the overall pattern.”

See a list of the honored dead.

The service included photos, when available,  of the saints. See those here.