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Now that I know what I am

A couple of weeks ago, a longstanding member of our church passed away after a chronic illness. As arrangements were being made for her memorial, her husband called me up and said my name appeared on one of the cards she used to outline her final wishes. He said it must have something to do with the music but there was no other information and did I have any idea what she might have wanted. I didn’t. Well, would I mind co-ordinating the music for her memorial with the minister, the funeral director, and the choir director? No problem!

He sounded so relieved.

Little did I know how much work was going to have to be done in such a short amount of time, but I like this kind of organizational stuff, and I’m good at it. The memorial was lovely, and an eighteen member choir sang her home. Apparently, it’s a rare thing for a choir to sing at the funeral home, but then, we’re quite a rare choir. :-)

Only a few days later another longstanding member of our congregation passed and I received a call from a member of our Session asking if I would perform the service.

I gulped.

“I’ve never done a funeral,” I reminded her.

“Mm hm. But you’ve done lots of services for us. This is not so different. Our Interim Moderator can’t make it, and if we get a minister to take it, he won’t have known A. You did. I think the family would prefer someone who knew him take the service.”

“Well, if it’s OK with the family…alright.”

And I flew into organization mode once again. First, I needed an Order of Service. Our former pastor gave me an ancient Manual of Forms before he retired, which I liked for the language – all “thee’s” and “thou’s”. Surely I could find a good funeral service in its pages. Well, I found the funeral service alright, but… “Mortals born of woman are few of days and full of trouble.” And the final judgement. And sin. And more judgement. And on and on. Yeesh!

“How’s it going,” The Mister wanted to know.

“I need to find an Order of Service that doesn’t make me want to kill myself,” I replied.

“Don’t you have a minister friend in New York? Maybe she could help.”

“Yes! Yes! Yes! And just where were you two hours ago?” I asked, rushing past him to my computer.

“In the kitchen. We’re low on peanuts by the way.”

My minister friend recommended the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship. I didn’t know Presbyterians had a Book of Common Worship, (sounded more like an Anglican thing to me) but just before I put a rush order on it, I checked the internet on the off-chance some good soul had put at least some parts of it online.

Praise be! They did! I flipped to the funeral service – eternal rest, angels surrounding, saints greeting, blessedness, homecoming, joy.

Now you’re talkin’ my language!” I wrote the Order of Service in one sitting, er, maybe two, and the sermon in a scant two days. (New personal record!) Then it was off to the funeral home for the visitation of another friend of ours, the fourth to pass in as many weeks. While I was there, I thought I’d take the opportunity to ask the director a few questions. She wasn’t available, but there were three women staff members, all of a certain age, whom I’m sure their coworkers must refer to as “the Aunties,” at least in secret if not to their faces. Gracious, kindly, and eager to help, I know they were biting their tongues not to call me “dear,” and “darling.” It was all I could do not to hug the stuffing out of them!

Before I left, one of them said, “Would you like to see A’s memorial card? I’ll get you his memorial card. Now wait right there! I’ll be back with his memorial card!”

I opened it and discovered they’d listed me as “Clergy.” But lest I’d become too puffed up over my sudden elevation in ecclesiastical status, I noticed they’d spelled my name wrong.

In two places.

Three, if you count the missing hyphen.

I folded my lips between my teeth to keep from smiling.

“Are you going to mention this tomorrow from the pulpit?” The Mister asked at breakfast the next morning.

“Yeah, I’d better. I don’t want to mislead. I won’t go into a lot of detail, I’ll just say that I’m a sometime guest preacher at St. Andrew’s…”

“No you’re not.”

“Beg pardon?”

“You’re not a guest preacher. That’s what we’ve got going now – a different face in the pulpit every week until we find a new pastor. These preachers don’t know us and won’t get to know us. You’re not a guest preacher. You’re a lay preacher and you minister at St. Andrew’s and have for years.”

I sat down slowly.

“A lay preacher,” I repeated. “I’ve never thought of myself that way. I just felt I had the words “In case of emergency,” stamped on my forehead and…”

“Oh, that’s still there. Sure, when there’s a crisis, people are more likely to call on you, but that doesn’t make you a guest in your own church. You’re a lay preacher.”

Huh. Fancy that.

For years I’ve struggled to define my role in the church. “No, I’m not clergy. Yes, I went to theological college but in a different, much different denomination. So just put me down as guest preacher.”

But now, clarity.

A family member came up to me after the service, thanked me, and gave me an envelope. It was addressed, “Minister.” When no one was looking, I crossed that out and wrote, “Lay Preacher. St. Andrew’s Church. Penny-Anne Beaudoin.”

Mind the spelling.

And don’t forget the hyphen. :-)

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  1. Valerie Hess
    Posted August 12, 2017 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    Wonderful! And so glad you have been properly named.

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted August 13, 2017 at 12:40 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Valerie!

  2. Julie Conerly
    Posted November 16, 2017 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    Ms. Pennyanne, I think u are awesome. So hilariously real yet so unlike what your image and bio portray! I loved ur work from the first line i read! You are my kind of people!

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted January 13, 2018 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

      Thank you, Julie! Such kind words!

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