Recently, I was part of one of the most special services we have at our church every year – The Service of Remembrance. It coincides on the calendar with All Saints Day which has been observed on November 1 in Christian churches across the world since the 8th century.
This service is a memorial to those who have died in the Lord. At our church, it specifically touches families that have lost a family member in the previous year. For a number of years, I have been privileged to lead the music for this service. I am moved every time. And simple thoughts like these hold my attention for a long time after the service is over.
Death touches everybody. This year, several of the families present were people I know quite well and included several members of our church staff. There were remembrances of people who lived a long life and others who lived a short one. No one escapes death.
You don’t get over loss – you get through it. For some of the families, the death is recent. For others, it was months ago. The quiet tears of grief flowed for all. You could see the small steps of faith being taken by the people present in the service. They are moving through the valley.
Worship is a natural response for the believer who is feeling grief. You might think that sadness would stop the song – it doesn’t. Loss makes the song even more real. We sing the great truths about our Loving Father the loudest when we understand Him the least. Not because we are stalwarts of faith – but because we are pilgrims who are choosing faith when we can’t see the end of the road.
Life is short – live and love now. I’m struck every time how fast it all seems to be going by for these families. It makes me miss my grandparents and father-in-law. It makes me want to love my family even stronger and show that love while I can. And, ultimately this service brings me face to face with the reality that one day I will be the one who has gone. Time is moving, and days are passing. Live and love well now.
If this is a service your church already observes, I’d be interested to hear how it impacts the people of your fellowship. If not, maybe you could have a service like this next year.
Either way, join me in stopping for a few minutes on a beautiful Fall day to remember the ones who have gone on, and reflect on the lessons we learn as we go through the valley.
Mike Harland is the Director of Lifeway Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book (checkout his latest book: Worship Essentials). In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family (and his two new grand-babies). Visit MikeHarland.com to keep up with all that Mike has going on.