This afternoon my husband presided over the funeral of a man who was once very involved in our church until his health dictated otherwise.
It is the most interesting funeral I have ever attended. The deceased played his violin in local dance bands and his violin was attached to the top of his casket in a fitting tribute to his musical ability.
Instead of the usual hymn prelude the members of one of the dance bands he played with, and he played with them only a few weeks ago for the last time, played a medley of old time dance tunes. We were swinging in the pews to Tiny Bubbles, The French Song, Ramona, The Band Played On and olde tyme waltzes. We did sing one hymn part way through the service and the other was sung on CD by a well known country western singer.
The attendees came from a mixture of religious backgrounds: Roman Catholics, Atheists, Mormons and even a handful of actual Anglicans. My husband's homily took a lot of time to prepare in order to attempt to say something spiritually meaningful to all the groups represented.
The deceased had requested an Anglican funeral. Well, it was in the Anglican church with an Anglican priest, and we did use the Anglican liturgy and interment service, but really it was a community funeral with something for almost everyone.
I didn't get the opportunity to congratulate the family on their tribute and eulogy for their father and grandfather. It was well written and well presented. There was only one, not 5, not 11, not 17! Not every family has a member so gifted who can write and present such a stirring and personal tribute that is also concise and non-repetitive like the one we heard today. I wish personally that all families did have such a one. The man had farmed all his life and one of his friends read an excellent poem about the faith of farmers that was very appropriate and also short!
The entire funeral service lasted 34 minutes. It was a muggy day and the church was hot and humid. Everyone appreciated the amount of music, praying and speaking that was accomplished in such a short time. Lunch was provided afterward by our church ladies and as usual it was quite a spread.
I was thinking afterward that my dear old grannie would have been completely horrified by the entire affair. Dance music at a Christian funeral?? In a Christian church?? Country songs??? Perish the thought!!!
But I kind of enjoyed it. It suited the man who had passed away. It was a tribute to the giftings he shared with his community. It gave all the band members a chance to honour his memory and honour their time together. Our church pianist also plays with that band and watching her face alight with joy as she played the old tunes gave me such pleasure. I hope she will feel free to crank out even more old time tunes after Sunday services than she does all ready. Her playing is always both tasteful and energetic.
The interaction between people of different faiths and world views seems so strong in rural towns. It seems in the city it can be much easier to restrict socialization to those who are just like ourselves in belief and practise. It is more easy to isolate ourselves socially if we choose to.
In rural towns like ours the small population dictates that our lives will automatically be influenced by people with different ideas than our own, unless of course we want to be hermits. In some ways it is cliquey in small towns, but the opportunity and necessity to integrate our lives with others whose involvement in churches and service clubs different than our own is ever present.
The funeral today was evidence of that. The man who passed away influenced and associated with people representing the ideals of their differing world views. Today we all came together to celebrate his life and how he had touched us. For me it seemed a good thing.