Reveille United Methodist Church
Service of Remembrance
December 16, 2018
“Hey, Doug. It’s Bobby….”
The phone would typically ring in the early afternoon, and that is how the call always began, with Bobby’s soft-spoken, almost melodic voice, reaching out in that distinctly southern way of hating to be a burden. Along with his mother and twin brother, Bobby ran the one funeral home in the small, mountain town where I used to live and pastor. I knew he was calling me from his office in the front room of an old white colonial house on St. George Avenue where his family had ministered to the dead and grieving for two generations, and I knew that he had the family in the room with him, and that they all wanted to know if I could help them. In small communities, it is still common to include the name of the funeral service’s officiating clergy in the obituary, and the local paper’s deadline was 3:00 p.m. for publication the next day.
Bobby would continue the way he always would: “Someone has died, and we are making the arrangements, and the family would like a service, but they do not have a church or a pastor. I was wondering if maybe you could help them out.”
In nine years in that town, I never told him “No.”
We would schedule a time to meet, either at the funeral home or in my study at the church, and Bobby, genuinely grateful, would thank me and hang up.
“How do you do a funeral for someone you don’t know?” is one of the more common questions I am asked about my work. It is a question I had to learn to answer for myself as I began my ministry over twenty years ago. I have always had good relationships with the local funeral homes. I think they like United Methodist clergy; we tend to be kind and gracious and give even the dead without churches or pastors the benefit of the doubt.