Years ago, a friend of mine offered some simple advice: “If you’re not sure you should go to a funeral, you should go.” His point being, whether or not youthink you should attend, you will almost always see someone to whom your presence will mean a great deal, more than you can probably imagine. If you’re on the fence, and if you can go, just go.
On Tuesday last week, I got news that Montreat had lost another good friend, Bill Sibley. Bill served on our Development Foundation Board and was a key volunteer leader for the conference center, particularly over the past twenty years. (One project he supported was the Memorial Garden, now named in memory of his wife, Nancy.) Bill loved to ask provocative questions, to challenge conventional wisdom and simplistic conclusions, and to solve problems. Over the past six years, he and I developed a habit of gathering and studying data together and conjuring up spreadsheets intended to help us measure the impact of conferences in Montreat on attendees and the church. (I told you he was unconventional.) Out of these conversations arose the basis for our programs for congregational vitality in stewardship and young adult ministry.
Sunday, Bill’s name was included in a necrology that was read aloud as part of our final worship service of the summer season. The list included a close family connection, a former boss and mentor, a member of my Junior Clubs group from my days as a counselor in Montreat, and so many other friends; as with Bill, I could easily write a paragraph or two about dozens of them. As the names were read, I felt the loss of funerals and the opportunity to share and listen. I appreciated anew how being present for the grieving is a gift to all who participate in communities of faith and who find sustenance in stories of the lives that have been lived among us.
I heard Tom Long, Presbyterian pastor, teacher, and preacher, speak once on funerals. He talked about their importance in getting the dead where they need to go and getting the living where they need to be. I worry that, because the pandemic limits our gathering, some of the living may be having a harder time getting where they need to be. I am praying today that all those grieving a loss can feel the presence of their communities of faith during these days.
And I give thanks for my friend’s advice imparted so many years ago. He understood the mutual gift of being present in worship at a particular time and place to celebrate a life well lived and the promise of the gospel. I look forward more urgently now to the time when, to the funerals in our midst we can once again “just go.”
In other Montreat news this week, please note that the upcoming Crossroads Antiracism Training has been rescheduled for October 23-25 2020. Those interested in participating in this event can find out more at www.montreat.org/events/crossroads20.
Finally, with many of our summer activities in Montreat winding down, the upcoming rhythm of our regular communications will change, and so I will cut back a bit on these regular, weekly updates. While we want to ensure that we are keeping you informed, beginning in September, we will be sending a monthly email titled “This Month In Montreat” that will include the same kind of programmatic, financial, and COVID-related updates that have characterized “This Week In Montreat” over the past several months. We will also continue to send our regular weekly “Community Announcements” for those interested in goings-on around town and our local community. In sum, these Friday emails from me will arrive less regularly over the next few months, though of course, we will continue to notify you of key events, decisions, and news as events unfold, regardless of the schedules outlined above. If you know anyone who would like to sign up for the “Community Announcements” or “This Month in Montreat” you can direct them to this links below:
As always, though less regularly perhaps, more to come!
Richard DuBose President Montreat Conference Center