When I was about fourteen, my mom and I went to the funeral of a much older relative–my first. I don’t remember much about it except this: All the adults stood around eating and chatting, mostly about fishing. Being fourteen, I didn’t get it. What was the point of that? Traveling hundreds of miles to chat about fishing? At a funeral?
I’m so glad I’ll never be fourteen again.
Last weekend I traveled with my husband to the funeral of his last aunt. She had lived a long, full life–she was close to 100 years old when she died, and her children and grandchildren (and great-grandchildren!), nephews and nieces, in-laws and friends and neighbors gathered at the church where she had been baptized so long ago. The service was lovely, and afterward, there was a luncheon.
And all the adults stood around eating and chatting. In between bites of cake and sips of coffee, people who hadn’t seen each other for days or for decades traded stories and memories, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. (And we found out half of us are on Facebook!)
Several people had brought cameras, so we all crowded together in front of the fireplace–not just the children and grandchildren, but all of us, nieces, nephews, in-laws, neighbors, friends, children of friends–all of us, and the waitresses snapped pictures on everyone’s cameras.
There weren’t any fourteen-year-olds around that day, but if there had been, I know what at least one of them might have thought. But I think I understand better now.
Standing around eating and chatting about fishing, family trees, and Facebook is how people form and maintain the bonds of kinship and friendship. It’s how we form community, and the more people we welcome in, the warmer and stronger that community is. That’s the point.
We Women of the ELCA understand that kind of thing. An organization like ours isn’t all about conventions, constitutions, and committees–it’s about forming community. And we form community in the time we spend together eating and chatting, welcoming the stranger, growing in faith, supporting one another, engaging in ministry and action, and talking about fishing. Everyone gets to be in the pictures.
How’s the community of women in your congregation? Who in your church family would you like to invite into the picture?
Audrey Novak Riley is associate editor of Lutheran Woman Today magazine.