This is a first. For the second day in a row, Helaine and I attended a funeral service. Our neighbor’s mother passed away last week and tonight was the service.
We headed to Bridgeport and the Messiah Baptist Church.
Messiah Baptist is a mainly black congregation in what has become a primarily black and Hispanic city. Its service couldn’t have been any more different than the Mormon funeral we attended yesterday.
Both sanctuaries were ‘clean’ in design with little ostentation. The Baptist church featured a large cross and raised rows behind the pulpit for their choir. At the Mormon branch, there was neither. I’m sure that’s by design.
The lay ministers at my friend Kevin’s funeral were dressed in business suits. The reverend at tonight’s service wore a clerical robe. The choir was dressed as well.
I have been to very few black churches, but I anticipated the choir and was not disappointed. The singers were seniors, but their voices were strong and their harmonies tight.
Reverend Elizabeth Jones, who officiated, was an impassioned speaker. It would have been impossible to not pay attention. She was high energy.
Helaine said, you’d never be able to fall asleep at this church! That’s the truth.
As with last night, I felt satisfied our neighbor’s mom’s life had been properly celebrated. She was a known quantity within this church community. The people involved in the service knew her well.
She had been a an active member of the church and part of a family that broke down racial barriers. Reverend Jones called her “a steadfast servant,” and explained why, while referencing a short bible passage from Luke.
I am sorry for the deaths that brought us to these funerals, but I really am glad I attended both. It was like amateur anthropology, as I tried to understand how and why things were done in settings that were mostly foreign to me.
In both cases the bottom line was the same. Here is a person who led a righteous life and will now join God. That they both took such different paths to get to the same place was what made it so fascinating.
If it’s OK with everyone, I’d like this to be the last funeral for a really long time.