Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fire and Brimstone

As in what seems to be a disturbing reccurrence lately, I went to a funeral home today. A relative of a relative. And keeping with another trend - quick viewings - the viewing was for a few hours followed immediately by the service. Usually I do not attend the service unless it is someone close to me, but since I was already there, I figured what the heck.

Well, you can thank me now. There would be no post if I had not stayed. That was THE most bizarre funeral service I have attended. The deceased was Catholic. We expected a priest. What we got instead was fire and brimstone as in a wooden church in the middle of a corn field (no offense to corn). I am not kidding. There was not one overzealous firebreathing preacher, but a tag team! Oh my.

The first guy, who may not have been a preacher as he did not seem all that comfortable at the pulpit, announces that he is going to read some scriptures, followed by the list of scriptures he is going to read, and then proceeds to read one scripture. That is right, just one. Yes, he listed off many, but apparently decided not to read them. Instead he delighted us with a song. Yes, he sang. The organ chimed in. It was of little consolation. He was not a singer by any stretch of the imagination. Finally, that torture ended and he sat down. That is when I noticed there was a second person. Tag - he was it.

Second guy starts speaking. I think to myself at first "at least he is a preacher and a good speaker." Ten minutes later I have forgotten that initial positive thought because his "eulogy", for lack of a better word, has turned into full on preaching about how he was concerned about us, the audience, and whether we have or have not embraced God in our lives. Great. Um, not sure he even realized he was at a funeral. Then he started talking about "testimonies" and all of the people he kne (many apparently) that had died and went to heaven and came back to tell him how wonderful it is. Yep. They "testified". Pretty sure it was not under oath.

After, I don't know, about 20 minutes of this, I am growing more and more concerned as the preacher is getting louder and louder. Now he is yelling at us. I whisper to my Dad "why is he yelling at us?" My uncle coyly scribbles on a piece of paper (well, okay, it was the paper containing the hymn we were to sing at the end) "tent revival?". I heartily agree. The preacher babbles on about some other craziness. My uncle and I exchange puzzled and actually angered looks. What the heck? This poor greiving family is being yelled at about their possible lack of salvation. I am hoping nobody paid these clowns for their "services." My Dad wisely whispers "Just think of this as penance for all of your past sins," to which I reply, "at this rate I will be good for the next decade."

The preacher finally moves on to the things the family wanted us to know about the deceased. I will admit he did a fine job on that note, but then again he was reading from a script and none of the words were "salvation," "testimonies," "testified," or the like. Quite an improvement. Then, the moment we were all dreading (or at least the three of us on the couch by the back wall), the other guy stands up to sing Amazing Grace. Yeah, because he wowed us so much with the first song. After he sang the first two verses, he invited us to join in the last verse. At which point the preacher stood, spread his arms wide and said "RISE!" Well, what else are you going to do but rise and pray that it is over quickly.

Thankfully, after that it was.

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