By Daniel R. Gangler
The Indiana Annual Conference paused Friday evening to remember 41 clergy and 34 clergy spouses in a Service of Remembrance and Holy Communion.
During the service as Conference Secretary Dr. Carolyn Johnson read each name of those remembered who died during this past conference year, Marsha Coyner, wife of Bishop Mike Coyner, rang a bell. At the same time, a candle was lighted in his or her honor. Bishop Coyner and the Rev. Chiyona Bourne were the celebrants of Holy Communion and were assisted by several communion stewards who served the bread and cup.
The Rev. Dr. Everett Carver McGriff, 90, a retired Elder of the conference and long-time former pastor of St. Luke’s Church in Indianapolis, preached the memorial sermon. He opened with a quote by Peter Pan with water up to his neck saying, “Ah to die, what a wonderful venture!”
“Jesus promised that there would be something more,” said McGriff. When the Apostle Paul was asked by the Corinthians if death was the end, he responded: “Our faith is a delusion, if we are not to have another life; we are lost to our sins and of all people to be pitied.”
McGriff called death one of the most emotional experiences in life, when we grieve the loss of a love one. “It hurts like few other things can hurt.”
McGriff shared a painful experience in his own life when his 44-year-old wife was killed in a car accident. He said he remembers going home at night sitting in the darkness and telling God what a lousy job he was doing. He even thought that all those things about God being love was bologna. How could God let this happen? “I argued with God in my anger… I was shattered… what a loss; what a loss.”
He struggled with his feelings. He said many present knew those feelings.
He shared the story of an experience during his wife’s funeral, when a fellow seminarian he hadn’t seen in a dozen years appeared. “I heard that when he heard my wife had died, he and his wife and boys traveled for two days from Nebraska to Indiana. They stood in line for an hour and when he came to me, he held me tightly and whispered three words in my ear. Then he and his family got in their car and drove back to Nebraska.
“Those three words… did something that night… He said, ‘God loves you.’ Maybe it was the enormous price he paid to say those words to me – it made the difference. It reminded me. And all of a sudden I was starting to feel well again. I will never forget that.
“Grief is a terrible experience, yet, also, it’s a wonderful experience because it is the greatest experience we can give to a person we love.
“Grieve not for your loved ones who are gone, all is well with them. Grieve for yourself. Grieve as much as you want and as deeply and lonely as you must. It’s a great gift to give to the one who loved you… The day will come when you discover something happened to you – something so wonderful that you have never experienced before – something great – and you will be glad. God bless you.”
A list of those remembered can be found here.