2016 Memorial Service: Death is not the end

June 16, 2016

The 2016 Memorial Service began at 11 a.m. on the first day of Annual Conference, June 16.

From the liturgy: “We gather here today to celebrate and remember those who faithfully served God and now rest in the light of God’s eternal love. They watered seeds of love in us and in the countless lives that were touched by them.”

As the names of clergy, spouses, and a bishop’s spouse were read, those who “received the seeds of love and the gifts of their life and ministry” were invited to stand. Plants were brought forward in remembrance of each person and added to the garden. (See names and photos in the gallery above).

The service remembered not only clergy and spouses from the New England Conference, but also the victims of the June 12 shooting in Orlando.
The names of the 49 killed were read, and plants were held up to honor each of them.

Bishop Violet Fisher was guest preacher. The scriptures for the service were 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

 “We’ve come today not to mourn, but to remember and celebrate the lives of saints who have been transitioned from the church militant to the church triumphant,” Bishop Fisher said.

While we rightly go through a time of grieving, and the memories of our loved ones will never leave us, we understand that death is not the end, she said.  
Quoting a song that her mother, a Pentecostal preacher, used to sing, Bishop Fisher said:

“Is my living in vein? Is my giving in vein? Of course not. Because up the road is eternal gain.”

“Because we know they died in the Lord, there is a promise that they will rest from their labors and their works will follow them,” she said. “Isn’t that good news?”

And it is good news for all, she said.

“The resurrection of Christ was his defeat over death – not only for himself but for all who believe in him,” the bishop said. “Those of us who believe in Jesus Christ wholly and totally, we know that when we close our eyes in death it’s not over.”

So she urged us not to mourn for those who had passed, but instead to celebrate lives well lived in devotion to Christ.

“We came here today to give God the praise and to thank God for the saints who gave their all, who lived the life of being a disciple, who gave what they didn’t have to give, who put their hands in the church, who testified, ‘I love the Lord,’” she said. “We celebrate them today.”

The Memorial Service concluded with communion, and after the morning gathering, Worship Leader Marcia McFee opted to move the communion table to the center of the room – “among the people” rather than at the front as had been planned.

The service also celebrated the ministry of churches that are closing since the last Annual Conference session. They are:
  • Faith United Methodist Church, Orrs Island, ME
  • First United Methodist Church, Spencer, MA
  • Grace United Methodist Church, Keene, NH
  • Maynard United Methodist Church, Maynard, MA
  • Immanuel United Methodist Church, Waltham, MA
  • Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Worcester, MA