7 The Very First Words

Gathering, briefly, one last time . . .

I use the same words almost every time I begin a service.

What’s important to me is that this doesn’t sound preachy. It doesn’t force people to believe anything. It simply describes how we are as people and what is happening in this moment. It acknowledges that this is a hard moment, this is an appropriate gathering, this is a serious time, this is worthy of some formality. It provides a framework for the rest of the service so people know the kinds of things to expect.

Just before I start, I stop. I take a breath. I look around. And then I say,

We don’t want to be here. Just so that’s clear.

We’re here because when God made us, he built us to respect lives, and to acknowledge that when an earthly life ends, something significant changes.

There is something that is right about gathering, briefly, one last time,

   to affirm that life,

   to accept that death,

   to hear hope for the future, and

   to reflect on how we will live the rest of our lives.

And that’s what we will do.

I’d like to invite God to be part of this time, though he’s already here.

And then I talk to God.

God, we are here. And you are here. And we need to know your presence. 

Sovereign Lord, help us for your name’s sake;

out of the goodness of your love, deliver us.

For we are poor and needy, and our hearts are wounded within us.[1]

In this time, guide our minds and our hearts. Give us your peace as we offer our words and memories. 

Through Christ our Lord, 


  1. Psalm 109:21-22.


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