In the ministry and for a time in the Emergency Medical Tech experience, I have seen my share of death. From the call that a member had died and could I come over, or a child had been killed, to showing up and making every effort to save a teen who didn't understand how a revolver worked and playing Russian roulette as a joke in front of the family was not a good idea., I am familiar with the chaos and grief such events can cause in the moment and long after the funeral.
I have been with church friends as they drew their last breath and sat quietly as everyone in the family went ballistic with grief and shock. I've dug graves on private farms for private burials as long as it was done with a 24 hour time frame doing a private service on the front lawn out in the countryside. I've erased the muddy hand prints of a child who was finally found in a muddy rain filled swimming pool as the sight may just have proven too much for all concerned. Lots of stories and lots of experience with death as we know comes to all in one way or another.
It's not being dead that most are concerned about but rather how we got dead that seems to take up our anxieties.
But in every case, and as the Pastor, death lead to a funeral service and while not unique, the Worldwide Church of God and I suspect splinter funeral services for the member left me of late realizing a great regret I have in my part doing church funerals.
The Church funeral was all about the resurrections, "each man in his own order" as I recall. It was a reminder we all die but that there is hope with all the associated scriptures to be read leading up to the Wonderful World Tomorrow. Fair enough I suppose. I have had to on occasion share a service with a local Baptist minister who basically went bonkers for Jesus and used his time to evangelize the audience and tell them their day is coming too just like Mr/Mrs/Ms ____________. Some shared services were hilarious to watch my counterpart bounce around doing his thing and some were enraging or just plain stupid.
But there was one element in a Church of God service, and from the other pastor's as well, that for many reasons I suppose, I failed to include in the service and for which I am deeply sorry and surprised at myself for not catching on to the problem ever back in the day.
I never actually offered a eulogy for the actual person. (a moment of praise and recognition of the life of the deceased).
I never spoke of them, their lives, struggles, family and fun times. I never told the audience my own positive recollections of the person or spoke fondly of them as I should have and could have. I never asked any family members to participate in the service with their own positive and even humorous stories about the deceased. Never a son or daughter was given time to publicly appreciate their now having died father, mother, brother or sister. The Church canned funeral service had no place for it and I simply never thought to include such a tribute , as I should have and as we all should have, to the deceased member. And I deeply regret that.
I changed the wedding ceremony in pretty short order after ordination. Why did I not change the funeral service? I hated the "animals reproduce but animals don't marry" BS in the service so I cut that out. I stopped asking "who gives this woman" as it was a throwback to the times when the father passed ownership of the daughter to the next man. Why did I not make the funeral service more of a celebration of the life of the person along with the hope of scripture? I don't know. I am deeply sorry I did not and I guess hindsight and having now been simply in the audience at a funeral seeing how others are done has enlightened me. Too late for all those whose funerals I did and for that I have my regrets.
I'd encourage any lurking pastor in any of the splinters to defy tradition and include a genuinely sincere eulogy for the actual life and positive contribution made in that life of the sincere member who paid your salary, sacrificed their time for the church, forsook a few things they needn't have and kept their the faith you delivered unto them no matter how difficult or even ridiculous, as with the Gospel of Dave Pack or The Gospel According to Gerald Flurry, it all was for them loyally waiting for your fairy tales to come true before they actually died as you will too. Honor to honor at least, please. Every person deserves to have their lives noticed and appreciated for what it was and who they got to be in it.
As the Forrest Gump of the Worldwide Church of God...I have this regret and "that's all I'm going to say about that..."