Below is the funeral service my church experienced to finally come face to face with this reality. It has enabled us to move forward in a new world. I hope it helps you too.
The church as we’ve known it is dead.
We must come face to face with this reality or else we will constantly keep fighting to return to a world that does not exist.
Anytime we lose a loved one, we have two options: become bitter by angrily clinging to what was or not.
Memorial Service for The Church as We Know It.
I am humbled and honored to be here today to honor and celebrate the life of the church as we’ve known it.
Jesus said, I am the resurrection, and I am life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, yet shall they live. I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I hold the keys of hell and death. Because I live, you shall live also.
Friends, we have gathered here today to praise God and to witness to our faith as we celebrate the life of the church as we’ve known it. We come together in grief to acknowledge our human loss. May God grant us grace, that in pain we may find comfort, in sorrow hope, and in death resurrection.
Eternal God, we praise you for the great company of all those who have finished their course in faith and now rest from their labor. We praise you for those dear to us whom we name in our hearts before you. Especially, we praise you for the church as we’ve known it, which you have graciously received into your presence.
To all these, grant your peace. Let perpetual light shine upon them; and help us so to believe where we have not seen, that your presence may lead us through our years, and bring us at last with them into the joy of your home not made with hands but eternal in the heavens; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
EULOGY/REVIEW OF LIFE
Dear friends and family, we gather here today to pay tribute to and remember the historical Christian church – the “church as we know it” – that has played such an important role in our lives and the lives of countless others over the centuries.
From its humble beginnings in ancient Israel to its global reach, the historical Christian church has nurtured and guided millions of people. It was a place where we found solace, community, and connection, and where we learned the stories of Jesus Christ, which taught us the importance of love, forgiveness, and compassion.
The traditions of the historical Christian church are many and varied, but some of the most cherished include the celebration of Christmas, Easter, and other important events in the life of Jesus Christ. Through these celebrations, we were reminded of God’s grace and the promise of eternal life. The sacraments of baptism and communion, were powerful expressions of our faith and belonging in the Christian community.
We sang hymns and songs of praise, raising our voices in joy and gratitude for God’s love and mercy. We knelt in prayer, asking for guidance, comfort, and the strength to face life’s challenges. We listened to sermons and teachings, which inspired us to strive for righteousness and live in harmony with God’s will.
Yet, today we are here to mourn the passing of the “church as we’ve know it” – the historical Christian church that has touched our lives in so many ways. We must acknowledge that many of the traditions, expressions, and experiences that once felt so familiar and comforting now seem distant and disconnected from our present reality. The world has changed, and with it, the ways in which we understand and relate to faith and spirituality.
The historical Christian church has long been a cornerstone of American culture, shaping the nation’s moral compass, social fabric, and collective identity. For centuries, it has played a central role in the lives of countless individuals, offering spiritual guidance, community support, and a framework for understanding the world around them. However, as we reflect on the significance of the church in American culture, we must also acknowledge that the times have changed and the influence of the church as we’ve known it has waned.
From the earliest days of European colonization, Christianity was an integral part of the American experience. The Pilgrims and Puritans who first arrived on these shores sought religious freedom and the opportunity to establish communities based on their spiritual beliefs. Over time, the church became not only a place of worship but also a hub for social interaction, education, and the exchange of ideas.
In the following centuries, the church served as a moral compass for American society, though not always pointing true north. But times were different, and people saw the world in other ways. The church provided guidance on matters of ethics and morality, influencing everything from family life to political decisions. People looked to their faith for comfort during times of crisis, such as wars and economic depressions, and found solace in the teachings of the Bible.
It is historical fact that the church played a huge role in the sanctioning of the slave trade and subsequent racism in America. But it is also fact that the church played a crucial role in the civil rights movement, with many African American churches serving as bases for organizing and rallying against racial injustice. The leadership of figures like Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister, highlighted the connection between religious faith and the pursuit of social justice.
Yet, despite the immense influence the historical Christian church has had on American culture, we are now witnessing a shift away from traditional religious institutions. Attendance at religious services has decreased across the board, and the number of people identifying as religiously unaffiliated has grown significantly.
Several factors have contributed to this decline, including changing social values, the rise of secularism, and an increasing skepticism towards organized religion.
In today’s interconnected world, individuals have access to a diverse range of perspectives and beliefs, leading many to question the exclusivity of religious doctrines. Additionally, various scandals and abuses of power within the church have eroded public trust and further fueled disillusionment. Nobody does a better job of making the church look bad than the church itself.
As we acknowledge the passing of the “church as we’ve known it,” it is essential to recognize the many ways in which it has shaped and enriched American culture. While the times may have changed and the role of the historical Christian church in American society is no longer as prominent, the principles of love, compassion, and justice that it championed continue to inspire and guide us. In this new era, we must embrace new forms of spiritual expression and community engagement that resonate with our evolving understanding of faith and culture.
PSALM 23 says…
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: you anointed my head with oil; my cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all of the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
God is a protector. I love the imagery in Psalm 23 because it paints a picture of a God that loves us, protects us, provides for us, shelters us from harm, comforts us and restores our souls! Oh, how I LOVE that line: “He restores my soul.” I think we could all use a little restoration today. And that’s partly why we are here.
We sit here lamenting the passing the church as we’ve known it. Some of us don’t even have any more tears to give, and some of us have just gotten started. We are running on empty. Psalm 23 can give us hope and restoration.
We are tired, we are drained. We all want one more day of what was while at the same time longing for what might have been. And we might even be a little scared: for we all fear death to one degree or another.
Death can be a scary thing. When someone we love passes from this life, we are brought face to face with our own mortality. And, I think, when we are confronted with the death of long held institutions like the church as we’ve known it, it rocks the very foundations upon which we have built our identities.
Who are we without our building? Who are we without our traditions? Who are we without our denominations? Who are we without the church as we’ve known it??
But, even in this moment when we are confronted with our own mortality and the crumbling of what seems like mountains around us, we are shown that God does not want us to be afraid.
From JOHN 14
Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
Jesus does not want us to be afraid. Jesus left us his peace. God restores our souls because Jesus restores our hearts.
Jesus builds the house of the Lord that the psalmist talks about: the house of goodness and mercy. And whether we think that house is heaven beyond or a renewed and restored heart here and now, we are right. The house of the Lord that is built on goodness and mercy is both in the future and here and now.
The church as we’ve known it has gotten us here, yes. But the house of the Lord that is built on goodness and mercy is not now, nor has it ever been, confined to a timeless expression of a particular institutional form of religion or faith.
That is why we can have hope in the middle of this extremely difficult time. We can have hope that the goodness and mercy we may experience now will come into fullness after death. What we experience only in part right now, the church as we’ve known it is participating in in totality. It is only when we come face to face with our mortality that we can accept the truth of our situation…and then live into the new reality.
As sad as we are in this moment, I urge you to take some comfort in knowing that God looked upon the church as we’ve known it as a father looks at his newborn child when seeing them for the first time, with a smile as wide as the universe.
We journeyed with the church as we’ve known it as far as we could here on this earth. It only had to go the last little bit into God’s arms by itself. And that is exactly where the church as we’ve known it is: in Gods protecting, providing, sheltering, and comforting arms.
And God is holding you in those same arms right now, and you can see God’s face when you look into the eyes of each other as you sit around and tell the stories and memories of the church as we’ve known it in the coming weeks, months and years.
And I promise you this as well, you will see the face of God in the new expressions and forms that the church as it will come to be embodies.
God of all, your love never ends. When all else fails, you are still God. We pray to you for one another in our need, and for all, anywhere, who mourn with us this day. To those who doubt, give light; to those who are weak, give strength; to all who have sinned, give your mercy; and to all who sorrow, give us your peace. Keep true in us the love with which we hold one another. In all our ways we trust you. And to you, with your Church on earth and in heaven, we offer honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.
*MOVE TO THE GRAVESIDE*
The Church As We’ve Known It – COMMITTAL
Hear the Psalmist say,
Therefore, my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also dwells secure.
You, [Lord,] show me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy,
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Let us pray.
O God, you have ordered this wonderful world.
Give us such faith that by day and by night,
at all times and in all places,
we may without fear commit ourselves
and those dear to us
to your never-failing love,
in this life and in the life to come. Amen.
Jesus said: “Very truly, I tell you,
unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,
it remains just a single grain;
but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Those who love their life lose it,
and those who hate their life in this world
will keep it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there will my servant be also.
Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”
O God, all that you have given us is yours. At first you gave to us the church as we’ve known it, now we give her back to you.
Receive HER into the arms of your mercy. Raise HER up with all your people. Receive us also and raise us into new life. Help us so to love and serve you in this world that we may enter into your joy in the world to come.
Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend the church as we’ve known it. Acknowledge, we humbly implore you, sheep of your own fold, lambs of your own flock, and sinners of your own redeeming.
Receive the church as we’ve known it into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints of light. AMEN.
Go now with the peace of God. Remember the church as we’ve known it and live your life as a memorial to an imperfect institution who whose commission was to be a force for good in the world. Go in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And Go Be Jesus to someone else this week. Amen.
PRAYER AS WE LOOK TO THE FUTURE
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
“The Merton Prayer” from Thoughts in Solitude Copyright © 1956, 1958 by The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani. Used by permission of Farrar Straus Giroux.