Dear Pastor:

You and I have never met and I am not a member of your congregation. I recently attended a memorial service for David Anderson that you officiated, and I was so impressed that I felt the need to send you this letter.

One of my daughters is a close friend of David’s brother, Jacob. David had been to our home a few times in the last few years and I knew him to be a kind and caring person, struggling to find his way in today’s world. Like so many other young adults, he didn’t always make good choices but, in my mind, that didn’t make him any less of a person than anyone else. Unfortunately, most adults are not so open minded and accepting of our struggling youth.

In the days leading up to the memorial service, I prepared my daughter for a sad and dreary service. I completely expected traditional hymns, scripture readings that tried to answer unanswerable questions, and spoken words of how sometimes our poor choices cause permanent harm. I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised to find a memorial service that truly was a celebration of David’s life and not a condemnation.

From the moment my daughter and I entered the church, we were warmly greeted by volunteers who helped guide my teenage daughter through the protocols of such a service. Because of their compassionate greeting and encouragement, she immediately felt at ease—something I wasn’t sure would be possible. I am certain it was their reception of her that allowed her to find the courage to approach Joan and Jacob before the service and express her condolences.

We moved into the sanctuary just as the band began playing and my daughter instantly felt at home. It was music (language) she understood. She smiled and commented on how David would have liked the music a lot.

As a parent, I watched as the church filled with many young adults dressed in their unique style. I wondered how many of them regularly attend church, how many of them are turned off by religious rules that ask them to conform to the rest of society. I listened as you talked about not ever having met David, and yet your words spoke of acceptance of him as a “character” and you seemed to express a sense of curiosity, as if you would have liked to have known this 23-year-old who touched so many lives. The respect you showed David in that moment was something I will carry with me for a very long time. You truly honored David and celebrated his life. Thank you.

Thank you for being open minded and willing to accept someone who was not in the mainstream. Thank you for showing my daughter and all the other young adults in the sanctuary that church can be a welcoming, accepting, and comforting place. Thank you for respecting the sanctity of a life lived, without passing judgment.

As the service came to a close, I wondered if any of the young adults attending were moved enough to have their spiritual awareness awakened. I pray you will be rewarded and some of those young adults will return to you another day.

Thank you for your dedication and your service to us all.

Kindest regards,

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