I attended a funeral this morning, which is why this weeks edition of our little coffee talk is a bit late.
This particular service was a Catholic funeral mass. It was a beautiful service and the presiding pastor, a local priest, conducted a great service that spoke a good deal of the dear departed and the lesson of his life.
I’ve been to funerals before where the focus seemed to pointed toward the order of the service that there seemed little if any acknowledgement of the dear departed we were there to memorialize.
That was not the case here.
Whenever I attend any type of religious service conducted in a religion other than my own, I’m always a bit nervous because I’m always concerned about unintionally violating some sort of protocol.
I was fortunate to be seated next to a colleague who happens to be Catholic. I was therefore able to follow her lead for the most part, and if I wasn’t certain about something, I whispered to her and she explained what I — as a non-Catholic — should or shouldn’t do according to the tradition of the service.
When it came time for Communion, the bulletin actually pointed out that anyone who was not a Catholic should not take Communion. Though I grew up Southern Baptist, I’m now more non-denominational, and the churches I’ve attended over the past few years have all served Communion. Some, particularly Southern Baptist churches, call it the Lord’s Supper.
The point is, as a Christian, I could have disregarded the instructions in the service program and taken Communion anyway.
But the question I’d have had to ask myself first is, “Why would I?” Not taking Communion at that moment in no way affected my faith. I wasn’t relinquishing my belief in God by not participating in this particular ritual. But out of respect to the family’s church and it’s traditions, I did not take Communion.
Years ago I attended a funeral of a woman whose advertising projects I’d had a small role in shooting and editing. It turned out she was Jewish. I had never attended a Jewish service of any kind, so while I was quite curious, I had no idea what to expect. The actual service was not particularly different from whatever it was I expected. The only thing that caught me off guard came when I arrived for the service.
Two men stood outside the doorway to the mortuary handing out kippot. A kippah, also known as a Yarmulke, is a small cap worn on the head in the Jewish faith.
I was concerned then, too. I leaned towards the usher and told him I wasn’t sure if I should take it since I wasn’t Jewish. He smiled understandingly and said, “It’s worn as a sign of respect to the family.”
No problem, then. I wore it. Wearing it, after all, didn’t convert me to Judaism.
I wouldn’t have wanted to wear it if it was supposed to only be worn by Jewish people because I wouldn’t have wanted to appear to be “mocking” their faith. However, as an intended gesture of respect to a grieving family, I would have a hard time coming up with a reason to not do so.
It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to respect other people’s religions in such instances just as I’d hope they’d respect mine if the situation were reversed.
Maybe if more people would get to know more about each other, we’d get along better in this world.