We had my mother's funeral last weekend. There was a beautiful private service for just family at the cemetery, and a public memorial at the church.
The church no longer occupies the large imposing building on Main Street where I grew up from earliest memory, attending Sunday school every week, singing in the children's choir and watching the wheel of community turn until one day it found itself dying. The dynamics of the community changed during the late 80's and early 90's, and the costs in keeping the big church running were no longer met by weekly tithes.
My mother was an elder during the change over, on her way out of service and grieving for the loss of the building that had seen births and weddings, and my father's funeral. It is never easy to move a house of worship. I know ghosts walk the halls of the old church; I've heard them before. I wonder do they bother the new congregation walking those corridors; do they understand why things have changed?
Upon arriving at the new location, I was immediately struck with the similarity in building layout to the old church. Once inside I was surrounded by familiar faces and comforting reminders of the years and history of the congregation itself. Included was the wall of pictures showing the different faces of building they had occupied in their 126+ year existence.
The minister had us, the family, crowd together around the large session table to tell stories of my mother. As I looked around, the positive and healing energy of family wrapped itself around me and I felt, for the first time since Mother's death, at peace. I know my mother is at peace in heaven and totally happy to be reunited with my dad and her other relatives. There is no reason to weep, for at last she is free.
Watching the faces of those around me, family, friends, relatives, casual acquaintances, I saw a microcosm of the people whose lives my mother touched as a librarian. People seemed shorted, wider, older than I remembered, another slap of the wheel of time across my face. But the love and warmth they radiated took me in their arms and assured me I am not alone in this time of grief.
A building is not a church. A church is a collection of like minded people sharing and growing in God's love and word. No where was that more exquisitely made clear than at my home church this past weekend.
Some where up in heaven, Mother is smiling.