News and Views

BWC honors conference members with joy-filled service of remembrance

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By Nora Meeks

Have you ever been to a memorial service where the attendees danced? That was the energy in the ballroom at the BWC Annual Conference Session Service of Remembrance May 30. The service is held every year to remember the clergy, laity, clergy spouses, and diaconal ministers who have died in the past year. This years’ service honored and remembered 21 clergy, seven clergy spouses, two lay members, and two diaconal ministers. 

“One of the women up there used to be a lay leader for one of the churches I served,” said the Rev. Diane Dixon-Proctor, speaking about lay member Kathleen Thompson. “When I saw her last year, I said, ‘Kathleen you coming?’ and she said ‘I’ll see you next year,’ and I did. She was remembered up there.”

The service began with the procession of 23 lay and clergy members into the main ballroom, filled with family and friends of those who had passed. The theme echoed throughout the service was how our history paves the way for our future. The service opened with a reading from Ezekiel 37:11-14, continuing the theme of this year's annual conference, “Like fire shut up in our bones.” The scripture told the story of God breathing life and hope back into the dried bones of his people. 

The Rev. C. Anthony Hunt Jr., pastor at Epworth Chapel UMC in Baltimore, preached the sermon, reminding the attendees that “when we forget where we are from, we lose sight of where we are going.”

Like the stones used in the scripture he shared during the service from 1 Kings 18: 31-34, Hunt said that the things we take with us from our past help us build our future. He spoke about how this service of death and resurrection allows us to celebrate everlasting life and that God will always be there to take care of us in death and in life. 

As the names of those who have passed were read, a candle was lit on the altar in their remembrance. After all the names were read, people were invited to stand up and light their hand-held candles in remembrance of those in their lives they had lost. By the end of the service, as “Amazing Grace” was played on a lone trumpet, the ballroom was aglow with the light of the candles and the love echoing off of the people in the room. 

The service concluded with the hymn, “When We all Get to Heaven,” and as the music and clapping filled the room, people began to dance with joy. It was a beautiful reminder that after the pain of grief and loss comes the joy of remembering all that we have seen and experienced through God's love.