After 135 years, “Living Out Love” is alive and well at Newberg Friends Cemetery. There is no better time to practice practical theology than at the passing of a loved one. Walking with family and friends during a vulnerable time in their lives is truly living out Christ’s love.
A family arrived at the cemetery, entered the office, and said, “We have come here straight from the crematorium with my father’s ashes. What do we do now?” After some practical arrangements were made, they left in peace. Bitter cold and windy weather was predicted for the burial the following day. So I took the wheelbarrow of dirt inside the small office to keep it warm; otherwise it would have been one big frozen clod. The family crowded into the office with urn in hand. Shortly after we gathered, the awkward silence was interrupted when a daughter spoke up and said, “Could we have the service here in the office, since it is so cold?” “Absolutely” I said. “Who’s the pastor or officiant?” Another long pause. Then a brother said, “Well, we don’t have one because no one really goes to church.” After a short pause, the sister spoke up again: “Will you do it?”
Without hesitation I said I’d be honored to, then inwardly said Oh, God, help me. So as I stood by the urn on the table next to the wheelbarrow of dirt, God helped me share words of comfort for the family. He was faithful and they were at peace. We live out Christ’s love every day in practical ways.
The cemetery is a unique ministry of Newberg Friends Church. It is a ministry within the church and a tangible, well-used outreach into our community. The biggest challenge for the cemetery board is answering the question: “How do we maintain and manage this ministry and outreach for another 135 years?” We are unique in that most of our operating and future funds are based on fees generated. As in most ministries we need contributions for operations, special projects, and equipment. The ministry could not exist solely on these factors. God has supplied us with volunteers to help in a variety of areas—administrative guidance, maintenance of equipment, mowing and trimming, record keeping, plumbing, electrical, and even mole and gopher catching. After working at the cemetery, volunteers most often report about how peaceful it is to spend time doing ministry there.
Variety is the spice of life, and two things are certain—my schedule changes every day, and ministry happens every day.