Things are going pretty well, I thought as I hung my alb and stole in the closet. I had just completed the funeral for Stan Conners, the second funeral in the congregation to which I had moved recently. As I adjusted my collar and slipped into my sport coat, I ran through a mental check list: The soloist sang well, I felt good about my sermon, and the family was pleased with the service. I had accomplished my goal of providing spiritual comfort.
A comment two days later forced me to question that assumption.
I stopped by the house of a young widow. Three years earlier this woman's husband had died of a sudden heart attack. She shared her memories: finding her husband slumped over the wheel of the car in the garage, telling her school-aged children their father was dead, beginning the struggle as a single parent.
She observed, "The pastor and the church didn't minister to my greatest needs. Oh, the pastor saw me right after the death, and he met with me before the service. He said a few words ...1