posted Fri, 17 Jun 2005
I just attended my first Baptist funeral. My first Baptist anything, actually. I had no idea it would be so different from a Catholic funeral. I guess I should have suspected something was up when there was no beer at the visitation last night.
At a Catholic wake, you say the Rosary, then go to the back of the funeral parlor for sausage, cheese, crackers, beer and conversation. In the old days, this all happened at the house. At one wake my grandmother told me about, the party got big enough that the coffin had to be pushed out of the kitchen onto the porch.
The Baptists win on music. (And on Bible verses. Baptists throw out Bible quotations – chapter and verse – the way I throw out Baci chocolate wrappers.) I held the hymnal out to share with the woman next to me – a Baptist – and she laughed. She knew all the songs by heart. She didn’t need no stinking hymnal. And their songs are good, too. They weren’t ruined by Vatican II.
At a Baptist visitation, you stand in line, express your condolences to the family, then – leave. At least at this visitation, there was no service. Maybe there is at others. I don’t know. There wasn’t any food.
At a Catholic funeral, there is a Mass. You know what you are supposed to do (that is, if you are Catholic). There is a structure – a liturgy. It is a ritual, a tradition that has been in place for 2,000 years. Well, maybe 2,000 years. I don’t know how long the funeral mass has been in existence, but it’s been a long time. Let’s say at least centuries.
After a Catholic funeral mass, you go to the cemetery for the burial, then you return to the church hall for the reception. Except for the part about my dad being dead, my dad’s reception was really fun. We had a great time with incredible food. My uncle Larry made the bratwurst and the church ladies made the rest of the food. Everyone kept saying that Dad would have really enjoyed his party and wished he could have been there.
This Baptist funeral seemed unstructured. Not that what happened wasn’t nice. The pastor was a wonderful speaker. The singers were excellent. I mean no disrespect to the Baptists, but it seemed rather – random. There were no prayers that we said together. I wasn’t really sure when the service was over. We didn’t go to the cemetery for the burial. There was no reception or food afterwards.
The most interesting thing that happened was this: The preacher called for conversions. Right there in the middle of his closing remarks.
“Sister Jane asked that if anyone was moved by her testimony here today that we offer him the chance to be saved.”
I sat up in the pew. There was going to be an altar call! I had never seen one! Catholics do not "get saved!" I have always wanted to see this!
But the pastor had other plans.
“Everyone bow your head. If you feel so moved to let Jesus into your heart, just say this prayer to yourself. ‘Jesus, I accept You as my personal savior.’ Now, if you want me to know that you have accepted Him, you don’t have to walk down the aisle. Just lift your head up right quick and I’ll be the only one who sees you.”
Rats. I really wanted to see some of that old-time religion
The end of the line
1 year ago