In Dealing with My Mom’s Death, Amidst the Chaos of Modern Evangelicalism A Question: Where Will My Funeral Be One Day?

In the aftermath of my Mom’s death a new question popped in my mind. The question came from a discussion with my Mom 3 years ago. In short she asked me where will my funeral be held given the chaos of modern day evangelicalism? That question haunts me today given the issues that exist in modern day evangelicalism. 

“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

Winston Churchill 

“Say not in grief he is no more – but live in thankfulness that he was.”

Hebrew Proverb 

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 NLT

My Mom’s funeral at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Fresno, California 

About three years or so ago in California I was talking with Mom. We were having a discussion and she changed the topic. In a reference to my situation about differing churches she came out and asked me “David I have no idea who to contact if there was an emergency. Which minister or even which church to contact for a funeral? Where is your funeral going to be one day?” I was taken back by the question and found it deeply uncomfortable. At the time I had no idea as to what to say. After all I never thought of my own funeral. My Mom’s question was largely forgotten until recently. 

 

An Unexpected Death and Planning My Mom’s Funeral 

My Mom’s death was unexpected. It threw me off guard to the point that I had to shop and get cloths. I only planned to travel and be in California for about 4 days or so. Now I had to get additional clothes. Plus I would also have to get clothes for the funeral. My intention was to get my Mom back on track, help her, and leave for D.C. knowing she was on the path of recovery. That did not happen. On Saturday March 25, 2017 at St. Agnes Medical Center in Fresno the physician treating my Mom spoke to me. He said that I should stay longer and that it was a difficult situation. I had to cancel my plane ticket and re-book. This was the first of three times of doing this due to the sudden change of events. 

On April 1, 2016 at 6:24 in the evening my Mom died. It was before my eyes in the third floor of the ICU in bed 11. I watched the blood pressure go down, her pulse grow weak and her heart stop beating. I was a mess in sobbing over my Mom. To describe what a death is like and the hardship is something that I can’t. I feel like a part of me died with my Mom. I am permanently changed and physically I feel different. Its unlike a grief I have never experienced, Recently someone shared with me an article in The Guardian, which is a newspaper from London I believe. I would encourage you to read  “We don’t ‘lose’ our mothers – the reality is more violent than that.” 

Amidst the pain, the tears and the trauma what was helpful is having a relationship with a church to lean upon. My family is Roman Catholic and I grew up as one. During this time Monsignor Pat McCormick of my parents Holy Spirit Catholic church agreed to do the funeral. My family has known him for about 30 years. He is established in the Fresno Diocese. The funeral home handled all the arrangements as well. But I was comforted and amazed in watching the local Catholic church spring into action. The monsignor quickly moved to do the funeral. The church changed part of its plans and made the hall accessible. The fact that they did this during Holy week meant a lot to my family in grief. On the spot an overworked Catholic priest had breakfast with me to talk about death and grieving and what to expect. Watching all this and seeing it up close was helpful. In a time of deep uncertainty and pain I felt like I had something to lean upon. My family was also comforted by all these efforts by the local Catholic church. Overall it was helpful to a family in deep pain. To have such a relationship with a church was beyond helpful. 

 

The Chaos of Modern Evangelicalism 

If I  think of one word to describe the Catholic church I would use stable. It is not prone to the fads of modern evangelicalism. In Catholicism there is no such things like the Left Behind craze, the Prayer of Jabez fad, the Neo-Calvinist movement or more. It stays pretty much the same and it is solid and stable. Now in contrast if I were to think of one word to describe evangelicalism it would be chaos. I say chaos because the evangelical world is deeply unstable. It violently lurches from one craze to the next fad. For example that is what the evangelical world saw with the Left Behind fad, the Prayer of Jabez movement, and the Neo-Calvinist craze. There is no stability in a movement that keeps changing and defining what is doctrine is, and what church is. In this case there is also the many problems in many local churches as well. You have shifting doctrine in local churches. Yet others are addicted to the idea of a new building and having a building campaign. Many can’t be content with what they have but always want more and more. In some churches you can’t easily see the pastor and he can often have no idea who you are. Then you have the mega church movement in which you are but a number. Your ultimate purpose I would propose is to feed money into the system and support it. This issue happens in many evangelical churches amidst many theological movements. It cannot be contained to either a charismatic, Pentecostal, Baptist, or Neo-Calvinist environment. It is what it is, and its the sad reality of much of evangelicalism. 

 

Using Fairfax Community Church as an Example 

To make my point of how unstable a church can be let me use the last one I left. This will be an analysis of the issues inside Fairfax Community Church (FCC) in Fairfax, Virginia. At FCC they were a church that became more consumed with growth than in helping or loving people. To Rod Stafford people became a means to an end, almost like his personal ATM. When you were at FCC trying to meet with people became difficult if not impossible. You would get bounced around from person to person. Honestly FCC could be more bureaucratic than the Department of Veterans Affairs. The other issues dealt with authoritarianism which exhibited itself in Andy Gingrich‘s leadership. Andy as I learned could be personally controlling and very authorterian. In my belief he should not be a pastor. Then you also had the situation with Eric Nickle. FCC had employed a violent sex offender and hid that from the church. They concealed it and did not let people know that Eric was on the Virginia sex offender registry. You can read more about that in “Why Does Fairfax Community Church have a Care Director on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Sex Offender Registry?

So let’s translate all the above problems in the context of death and a funeral. Would I want my funeral to take place at a church like FCC? Short answer…no. Here is why. Why would you want a minister (Rod Stafford)  to preside over your funeral? After all when the pastor didn’t have time for you when you were living, why would you let him lead your service? In addition how can someone who really does not know you do your funeral? Why would you want someone who was authorterian like Andy Gingrich to be involved in your funeral? If he didn’t respect you in life do you think he will respect you in death? In a church that can’t take care of people and people leave frustrated why would a church want to do a funeral? Are they that greedy for the money? Finally then you have the Eric Nickle situation. What would you do when you are having an intimate family funeral..tell the kids to stay home and away from the funeral as the would be safer? If I had died I wouldn’t trust a place like FCC to handle my funeral. If they can’t minister to you in life, they will be unable to get it right in death. 

 

What Options do I Have? 

So what options do I have? Getting back to my Mom’s question…where will my funeral be held at? Honestly….I don’t know. It does make mainstream Protestantism and the Catholic church much more attractive. After all in those situations you can have something to put your back against. A funeral in many ways is for closure for those who are left behind. But given the chaos and deep issues in evangelicalism where is one supposed to go? What is one supposed to do? I don’t know. This is still a deeply difficult question that weighs on me today. My Mom’s death brought this question roaring back and its a challenging one. Well that is it for the day. Please know I love you guys! 

9 thoughts on “In Dealing with My Mom’s Death, Amidst the Chaos of Modern Evangelicalism A Question: Where Will My Funeral Be One Day?

  1. Donating my body to science. Take what organs can be used, use my meat for a cadaver lab, etc… I like the idea of my body being useful after the lights turn out. That or a Tibetan sky burial. It’s not something I worry about really. I’ve long thought funerals are for the living, not the deceased like you say at the end. Really whatever helps out those I leave process my death the easiest, please go with that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many years ago in Furry Fandom, we had an a small-press cartoonist (“McMoo” from Arizona) who went that route when he died of stomach cancer.

      One of the comments at his funeral read “Congrats on being accepted into med school”.

      Like

  2. I’m agree with Blue, funerals are for those left behind. You can make your wishes known now, (you can even write them into your estate planning documents) but ultimately you won’t be the one making the decision. Your loved ones will be doing that, and it’s best if they do what’s most comforting for them.

    Plus, who know’s where you’ll be, religion-wise, by that time. You may have changed direction into a path you totally weren’t expecting.

    Like

  3. “Always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise they won’t go to yours.” -Yogi Berra

    Sorry, just trying to bring a little levity.
    Eagle, you bring up so many valid points.

    There was a time when my wife & I knew exactly what would happen & how funeral arrangements would be when the time came. Now… after dealing with many of the issues of evangelical churches that you describe, and having to leave one a few years ago, I honestly don’t know. She & I actually have very differing opinions now. Part of me would prefer to have the mainline protestant church I grew up in handle things; we’re still friends with the current pastor there. But my wife probably wouldn’t go for that. A larger part of me would prefer that my current mainline semi-evangelical-semi-mainline protestant church would handle it, which is probably what would happen. The new pastor there is wonderful, and engaged in the lives of the small congregation & families that he serves. He knows everyone by name, what they do, etc. He makes it a point to be involved, and in the very best ways. As for my wife… it would probably be handled by the church she attends now. We should probably have the conversation again that you & your Mom had.

    I agree that having a pastor who knows you is key. I used to say about my late pastor-mentor, that he was the kind of pastor who was walking beside you, sharing life with you during the good times, so that he knew what to do with you when the bad times hit. (And even when he did a funeral for a relative of a parishioner that he may not have known, he knew what questions to ask, and *listened* to the family enough to be able to capture the “essence” of the person by sharing anecdotes & traits that had been relayed to him by the family.)

    How does a mega-church “pastor” do any such thing? Shepherd? shrug. They aren’t pastors or shepherds. They’re just *preachers*. Nothing really wrong with that, I guess, it’s what it is, but to call them *pastors* just doesn’t seem appropriate, as they don’t serve that function whatsoever. IMO, the mega-church model is a diseased form of “church”. It doesn’t function as a church; it’s more like a CEO-run business model, where the preservation of the organization/institution is most important, and people are expendable. Ultimately… that is profoundly sad, and the antithesis of what Jesus would want His church to be, IMO.

    I’ve been to funerals where the pastor knew the deceased and his/her family well. I’ve also been to generic funerals where the pastor just went through a few rituals, and didn’t even know the deceased. The difference between the two experiences is striking.

    Anyway, thanks for bringing up an issue that people don’t really discuss at length until it’s probably far too late. You’ve given me a lot to think about, and you make some cogent observations & ask some important questions. I sincerely hope that when your time comes (hopefully a long time from now), that you’ve worked things out, and the answer(s) will be obvious.

    Go well, sir.
    Keeping you in prayer as you continue to heal.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Also, your Mom was an amazing lady to have brought up such questions & concerns. It’s cool that you’re still learning from her, as you replay past conversations in your head. 🙂 That is a very good thing. She would be proud. And she was proud.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My Mom was a gem. I miss her. I thin of her often. I went to grab dinner last night and I chose I place Mom liked when she was in the DC area. Even choose her favorite food. I miss her terribly.

      Like

  5. Pingback: Visiting Kansas City, Wichita and Salina, Kansas Later this Week and Early Next | Wondering Eagle

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