Retaining the congregation

At a funeral today. There was one part where the vicar (for it was a church service) talked about the faith of the deceased, and referred to “those of you who have lesser faith, or indeed no faith.” At the time he said it I was altogether annoyed. How dare he hijack the ceremony and cheapen the memory of the dead woman in order to preach at me and those others of us who don’t believe? There’s a time and a place for proselytising, and at a funeral, in the face of those who knew the departed and have gathered to honour their memory, is not it. But then afterwards I got to thinking. In these increasingly, almost entirely secular times, part of any man of God’s ministry must be to spread the Word that they see clearly to the ranks of those who do not. Still, I felt that the time he’d chosen was inappropriate. But then, on further reflection, I started reconsidering even that. When else are we likely to come into contact with a priest? There’s little point speaking on such subjects in sermons at Mass: that would be, quite literally, preaching to the converted. The majority of the secular population will only come into contact with ministers on ceremonial occasions: weddings, christenings. And funerals. So, on the seesaw between honouring the one member of the congregation and preaching the Word of God to the unbeliever, where should the priest come down? I think I’m still of the opinion that it was the wrong time and the wrong place to do it. But I have a slightly more elevated respect for the man’s decision than I did at the moment he took it.

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