In the beauty of Heinz Chapel, the Pittsburgh Compline Choir will lead a festival service, lifting their voices on behalf of the congregation to sing the world premiere of Alastair Stout’s Missa Brevis.
Death and accompanying grief has been all but dismissed from communal mourning. Beloved bodies are no longer presented to God from the familiar space of a living room or sanctuary. Subsequent tears and grieving are not often comfortably received at the office, in class, or out to dinner. In these ways, losses to death and deep grief are frequently hidden among us.
Author and theologian, Thomas Long notes that rituals of death “rest on the basic need, recognized by all societies, to remove the bodies of the dead from among the living… [however], our death rituals have become downsized, inwardly directed, static, and as a result, spiritually and culturally impoverished. We tend now to recognize our dead only for their partial passions and whims. They were Mets fans, good for laughs at the office, pleasant companions on the links. At upbeat, open-mike “celebrations of life,” former coaches, neighbors and relatives amuse us with stories and naïvely declare that the dead, who are usually nowhere to be seen and have nowhere to go, will nevertheless live always in our memories. Funerals, which once made confident public pilgrimage through town to the graveyard, now tread lightly across the tiny tableau of our psyches.”
Poet and undertaker Thomas Lynch summarizes, “A good funeral is one that gets the dead where they need to go and the living where they need to be.”
Chances are, someone you loved dearly has died. Your beloved dead has gone to the grave, and yet have you found comfort? Have you found confidence to speak the names of those who have gone before you with faith and a spirit of hope?
On November 6, we shall celebrate All Saints Day. In those who gather, we will acknowledge a diversity of traditions and yet, together, set this time apart to grieve. This will be a service to thank God for your beloved, and to provide a reflective space to remember.
Please submit the names of those who have died, to be sung during the service, below: