There is this saying sometimes about Methodists… that we’ll marry and bury anyone. And in my little town, I guess that is true.
Most of the weddings that I have officated in these past three years have not been church members.
Most of the funerals I have presided over have not been church members.
I understand and honor and respect the traditions and policies of the other churches in town. There are good reasons for asking couples to belong to the church before they get married within in. There are reasons that in lay terms we call it “Christian burial.” As pastors, we invoke… or at least name the presence of God in these sacred and holy moments and ideally, the person or couple would want God there and would hold to our beliefs about God as well.
But that is not always the case.
I cringe at the idea that the church is a place where religious services are provided. I hate the consumer implications of such a statement. So, as I started typing that last paragraph and the idea of a supermarket came into my head, I started to go back and change it a bit.
But I can’t… because when I get the phone call from the funeral home or from a young (or old) couple… I hear more than a request for services. I hear an invitation to be in relationship. I hear the voice of a person who is seeking the presence of God. They might not fully understand what that means, but they are inviting me into a relationship with them and together we get to discover how God is moving in their lives.
John Wesley might have meant something very different when he said, “The world is my parish.” But I understood him to mean that his minstry was not limited to a local parish. His ministry was not limited to the people who sat in the pews every Sunday. His ministry was out in the world. And my ministry belongs to the community as much as it does to my congregation.