Surely you have heard by now about "Woman Embalmed, bronzed in favorite pew" - larknews.com "Longtime church goer Gert Rizzoli was so devoted to her spot in the pew at Featherside Congregational church that when she passed away last month, her family received permission to bronze her body and set it in the pew." Many of us have read the article and laughed out loud saying things like "truth is stranger than fiction" and "You just can't make this stuff up!" I have wondered out loud "how much does it cost to embalm and then bronze a body?" Better yet, "how much does it cost in memorial contributions to reserve Gert's seat on the front row for eternity?" Make me an offer! Are we back to our Roman Catholic heritage with a new form of indulgences?
For me the laughter has turned to tears. Gert may have transferred her membership to the church triumphant but she and her family continue to be obstructionists for those who would seek to fulfill our purpose as a church "to make new disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world." Contrary to what my Mormon brothers and sisters might say, we are not called to make dead disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world, only live ones. Gert's hard plated presence is a disturbing symbol for main line Christians everywhere. I am certain that the Congregational church has lost members over the last 45 years. The United Methodist Church lost 4 million members during this stretch.
For any other family that has stupid money and is looking for ways to memorialize a dead relative I suggest the following;
- provide seed money for a young adult ministry project. a) screens in the sanctuary b) young adult missionary intern c) upgrades in service music written in this century d) renovation of unused space to feed hungry people e) update your web site f) provide decent coffee on Sunday morning or g) underwrite a mom's day out program. This list goes on but I think you get the picture. Even with the best of intentions, the Rizzoli family has missed the mark. This memorial does not honor their matriarch. Gert is a symbol for the church as we have turned more and more inward. The church of tomorrow must turn more and more outward.