Monday, May 30, 2016

The Loved One, Part II: The Rent A Minister

My MIL was raised a Unitarian.

She was not a High Church woman.  She embraced all things, all people, all viewpoints in which people could be themselves.

She believed in the good that science could create, but she understood that science could also create things that were not good.

My MIL saw God in a daffodil, in a hot air balloon and in the artwork of all the continents of the world and all of the peoples of this earth.

She also love cooked shrimp.

When my father in law died, we asked the sister of a dear friend, who is a minister to run the service.   It was beautifully handled and masterfully guided.

So when it came to find someone to preside over the service, being that we had a holiday weekend, our options were limited.  We settled on Fortesque and Son's go to guy, "Pastor Mike".  I changed his first name, because we have no idea what his last name is.  It never came up.

We explained that MIL was a woman of faith, but that her faith was not derived from an old or new testament, but from the laughter of children, the prism of a crystal reflecting on the wall or a kousa dogwood in bloom.

What we got at the graveside, which happened before the service, was Psalms and "Biblisms".

So the husband pulled Pastor Mike aside and explained, less evangelicalism, more in the faith of mankind.

And when the service started after calling hours...

What. The. Fuck.

We got psalms.  We got passages.  We got sermoned.

My sister in law, a forty year old, 6'4" tall man named Matthew - who is married to my brother in law,  leaned over and said whispered "Sweet smoking Jesus...this is toned down?"

I spoke, my sister in law spoke, MIL's step brother spoke, MIL's sister spoke, all of it was lovely.  None of it was Churchy.  We were hoping that Pastor Mike would have gotten the message.

He did not.

"And, oh, what a friend we have, in Je-sus..." crapola started anew.

And every time he said Jesus, a bit of me winced inside.   I could hear my mother saying "I hate it when these bumpkin ministers throw around Jesus' name like he's their bowling buddy.  It is Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ after the first, and Jesus Christ, thereafter..."

From behind my husband, I could see his shoulders hitching up with each preachy word.

As we were leaving, Pastor Mike kept asking how he had done.  And we said that he was certainly on his message.

Trust me people when I say this: bargain ministers at a bargain price are no bargain.

Sometimes, I wonder if men of "God" stop believing that this is about helping people and just go on autopilot.   Actually, none of the funeral home rental ministers I have ever seen have ever been any good.  Maybe that's the price you pay for not having a relationship with an organized body.  On the other hand, we should have done a Jewish service.  Simple.  To the point.  Let's go and eat.

In the end I think that a minister at a funeral is simply about having someone who can do and say something so the family of the deceased don't have to do much.

As for me, keep mine, when the time comes, short and sweet.  Then everyone should go and eat - a big meal.  And maybe a movie.  Something to make people laugh.  Hang a crystal in the window.  Think of me when the light refracts.

Just as I will when I see the same and think of my mother in law.


  1. too much religious crap out there. short and sweet and eat - I like that.

  2.'d think he could put his own agenda aside for one sermon, you know?
    Isn't that what Christianity is supposed to be about anyway. Caring about others more than oneself?

  3. How sad that the "pastor" couldn't give the message your family or your MIL wanted heard but instead gave his own sermon.
    Apparently Pastor Mike thought it was all about Him and not Her.

  4. Since he's making his living free-lancing, you might want to check any relevant review sites and write him up (do preachers do Yelp?). That kind of unprofessional behavior is unforgivable - not to mention the very opposite of "Christian" in any form I'd care to acknowledge...

  5. Had I been thinking, I would have run it as a Jewish service. Simple Lords prayer, for the audience, and them told the story of her life in factual form. Told the story about how grief is like a rock in your pocket that weighs you down until one day you are going about your business and reach into your pocket and relaize that while the rock is there, you really are used to it being there. Then we all would have gone to eat.

  6. Boy, I tell ya, after I'd had a swig or 6 of gin and tonic out of my flask, I would have read him some old testament....... the old wing bag probably just liked to hear himself talk.

  7. Lessons learned for the rest of us - write down what you want and tell whoever is likely to have to deal with it where the instructions are. And, how can leaving instructions for the Homilist hurt? I can assure you by all that is good and holy, if they play Amazing Grace at my memorial service, I will come back from whatever is on the other side of this mortal coil and straighten things out immediately...and it will not be pretty.

  8. This reminds me of my brother in law's funeral. The preacher did the whole fire and brimstone thing. My father was sitting in front of me; I can remember smiling to myself as I watched him turn off his hearing aids.