Originally published in the March 2014 Explorer.

My calling as a pastor grants me the unique privilege of working in the midst of a congregation.

All of the joy and misery that comes in the course of life happens in the life of a congregation of God’s people. Births, marriages, illnesses, promotions, retirements, birthdays, anniversaries, moves, deaths—those milestone events that come in the lives of people—happen within a congregation like River Road Church, Baptist.

Death has visited fine families in our congregation in January and early February. We are diminished by the losses of dear friends. We journey with these families in their loss and in the solemn occasions in which we give thanks for the life of their loved one.

I am glad we so often do that in our church, rather than in a funeral home. I do not say this because I have a bias against our local funeral directors and their excellent services, but because I have a bias in favor of River Road Church. It is appropriate for a Christian’s life to be memorized in the place where he or she entered for worship, in some instances for decades. It enables death to be accompanied by reminders that life is a gift of God, is sustained by God’s daily presence and that the living Christ welcomes us at journey’s end.

Conducting a funeral or memorial service at River Road Church involves logistics carried out by numerous members of our congregation. We have a Funeral Committee that assists families with essential matters—flowers on the altar ushers to greet guests who attend the service; a volunteer to monitor microphones used during the service; paraments on the communion table, pulpit, and lectern.

In recent weeks another group of our members has formed to ensure that anyone who has a funeral or memorial service at River Road Church will have at least a basic reception if they wish it. A designated fund has been set up to assist with this as well.

The laity who serve on these two groups offer a ministry of hospitality to our members and their families at a time with hospitality is keenly needed and appreciated. It is one of the important ways we are a church who not only laughs with those who laugh, but also weeps with those who weep.