One of the dangers of church work is the engagement of heart.
At worship yesterday, I shared with the gathered the deaths of two of our members. They are people who had given much to their church: companionship, insight, great hugs, and beauty. When the news of death is shared, the whole sanctuary goes through an energy shift. People are instantly in the place of heart.
Following worship during a scheduled meeting in the sanctuary, I noticed one of our members standing in the back of the sanctuary. It was odd, this sight, since she is usually robed and singing with the choir. The language of her body told me that something was up, but with another worship service soon to start, I wasn’t able to connect with her.
The reason for her unlikely position in the sanctuary became clear later. She had gone to pick up one of our beloved older members for church. They like each other greatly, these two, and enjoy the ride to church together every week. The door was not answered this week. Louise had died in her sleep the night before. Her friend had come to church to share the news and to be with her people.
There are all the positives to know in my head: She was in her upper eighties. She died peacefully.
My head works the check-list of goods, but my heart feels the ache of her passing.
Louise gave huge heart to her church. She was on staff for a time. She coordinated counters for years. And, she was the membership secretary since forever. Looking at our church records, there is a beautiful visual poetry in the names written by her hand; names representing human lives willing to join their being with a church called “Richfield”. Their names are in the book of life tended by Louise.
She had been at church just this past week for her book and people tending. She was full of delight at a recent article written about her grandson, and her pictures of great grand babies were oohed over by all. She was grounded and alive, full of the sass and heart that permeated her being.
I serve a congregation that walks in beauty. I have been in their midst some eight plus years and there has grown in my heart a deep love for those kind and good enough to allow me to be Pastor.
Louise was a champion. I will miss her voice, her love for her people, and her love for her church. She and her husband Larry created a powerful flock of people who will bless in their stead for generations. This I know in my head.
But my heart? It is feeling the ache and beauty of grief and celebration, both.
The blessing of being in communion with Louise made for fine heart stretch.