Finding Faith: A remembrance of our saints
"(I)n the Lutheran tradition ... We believe all believers are one big collection of saints, and we especially are grateful for those saints who precede us in death and now guide us from the other side of eternity. The observance of All Saints Sunday is a venerable tradition that can evoke a lot of emotion."
On Sunday, as Lutheran tradition dictates, our church will celebrate All Saints Sunday. It is a cherished custom that I’ve come to love very much.
During our worship service, we will pay tribute to all of the members of our faith community — and others — who died in the previous year and have joined the company of saints in the heavenly kingdom.
Not every faith tradition uses the term “saints” in the same manner. For instance, in the Lutheran tradition, we use the term to refer to anyone who is a believer, and most commonly for believers who have died. We believe all believers are one big collection of saints, and we especially are grateful for those saints who precede us in death and now guide us from the other side of eternity. The observance of All Saints Sunday is a venerable tradition that can evoke a lot of emotion.
In our church’s observation, after we’ve said our corporate prayers to God, I then read a list of the names of those in our congregation who died since the last All Saints Sunday. After each name is read, we ring a chime that lasts a few seconds, and then we observe a few more seconds of silence, a process repeated for each saint who has now joined all the other deceased saints throughout eternity.
After I have finished reading the list of saints who have passed from our own congregation, we then give space to the congregation to lift up names of loved ones, friends, neighbors, community members and others who died during the year, each receiving the chime and momentary silence.
Although the entire observance only lasts a minute or two, it is powerful. Standing together, and collectively honoring our saints who have freshly departed from us is an emotional experience. And, in that moment, we celebrate our spiritual connection between those in heaven and us believers who remain behind on earth.
For some, the tradition brings back memories of past members of the congregation who left big legacies; for others it’s a time to grieve the passing of a loved one; for others still, the remembrance is a time to marvel at the direct relationship we have with the hundreds of millions of believers who have gone on to eternity before us.
I am honored to lead our congregation’s cherished tradition that binds together previous generations of our church to those of us worshiping today, and that will continue to bind us to all the believers in our congregation yet to come.
Blessings to you this All Saints Sunday. May you take comfort in knowing that our observance also will pay tribute to the recently passed saints in your life too. Amen.