Rev. Maria Hanlin
Pastoral Care

What an incredible honor to officiate the funeral for Betsy Simpson earlier this month.

It was the week before her 94th birthday. Her husband of 71 years has lovingly and sacrificially cared for Betsy for the past 10 years as she struggled with Alzheimer’s.

Betsy was a faithful church goer, Sunday School teacher and taught French in college and English at church to immigrants to our country. We celebrated her life with great joy and claimed her love that lives on in so many.


What do you miss?

When I became a non-profit leader, people often asked me what I missed most about pastoring a congregation. I always said, officiating at funerals. (Not the answer usually anticipated!)

Why? Because you are invited into a family’s life at such a sacred level. You have the gift of hearing and sharing the family stories of a life well lived.

Mainly, you can point to our faith that proclaims, “This isn’t an end. It is a new beginning.” To proclaim, “Death robbed us of Betsy’s life, but it can never rob us of Betsy’s love.”


In the time of COVID

It was weird in this COVID-19 time. As people came in, they had to use hand sanitizer, don a mask, sit in marked pews, socially distancing.

No hugs. We couldn’t sing hymns. A maximum of 25 people can attend.

But we had a soloist beautifully sing, “How Great Thou Art,” and “Amazing Grace.” As I sat in the front of the church looking at Betsy’s family and friends, gazing up at the beautiful stained glass rose window, I closed my eyes and could remember singing those songs in my home church in Montgomery with my Grandmother, Mother, Father (who wasn’t known for his singing!) and Sister. And I felt them with me. God was surely present.

I prayed, “Dear God, we have lost over 160,000 people since February in this pandemic in our country. Nearly all died tragic, painful deaths. Most were not able to be with their loved ones as they died. So many are unable to have funerals. Please let them know you are with them and you were with their loved one as they died. Please let them know that “Death robbed them of their loved one’s life, but death can never rob them of their loved one’s love.”

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38