Pandemic Eternity Sunday Ritual

Eternity Sunday, which we usually celebrate on the last Sunday before advent,
is a time when we remember those who have died.
It’s a way to grieve together, and to remember God’s promises.
These past two years have been very strange, and it’s really interrupted the way we, as a church,
support people who have lost loved ones.
Usually when someone dies there is a visitation at the funeral home,
and there is a funeral or memorial service,
and there is a burial of a body or ashes.
Usually when someone in our congregation loses a loved one,
people from our church try to go to those events to support each other.
And of course when a death happens in our church community,

we all gather here in this building to say good-bye and grieve,
and remember the promises of God.
BUT because of the pandemic, many people have had to modify
or not even have any of these rituals in order to be safe,
and that has made grieving harder and lonelier.
Some people have family far away, and they couldn’t go home even when they wanted to go home.
So it’s more important than ever to have a time to remember those who have died.

Eternity Sunday is a day to remember that death comes to every one of us.
Death is a constant in human existence.
For some, death comes suddenly, through an accident or sudden illness,
for others, the movement towards death is years long.
Young people sometimes die, and old people always die.
Death is hard to handle, and even very strong Christians can get the shivers
when we face the death of a loved one:
as we let go of their hands we wonder,
“God are you there?  Do you hold their hands now?  Can we trust you?”
It can comfort us to know that the Bible shows people feeling these same things.
Hear the words of Job, from chapter 14…

We are not left with only these questions and feelings of despair.
God sent Jesus to us with a message of hope.  Read:
I Peter 1:3-9

The promises of Jesus are what sustain us.
Jesus died for us, he was crucified, died and was buried.
On the third he rose again– death could not hold him!
Resurrection was a victory, and is a promise for us of life eternal with God
and with all those who have gone before.
This is what sustains us through the valley of the shadow of death.
Read: I Thessalonians 4:13-18

We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses…and as a visual way of reminding us of this fact, today we will light candles.
This morning we invite those of you who have lost a loved one this year,
or who are still grieving a loved one who you miss
to come forward and light a candle in their memory, and to say their name out loud.
Those of you who are joining from home, raise your hand,
and we will call on you, to hear your name, and watch you light your candle. 
When everyone who wants to has lit a candle, I will say a blessing.

Blessing once the candles have been lit:
God of hosts, we have laid before you our loved ones and our grief;
eternal rest give to them, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
Your light, shining on them forever.
Your radiant promises, filling us with peace.  Amen.

New Book Coming Soon!

Carol Penner has written a devotional book for Lent that explores the challenges of repentance and forgiveness. Forty reflections and prayers to deepen your walk with God as you prepare for Easter.  

You can order it here!

About Carol Penner

I am a Mennonite pastor currently teaching theology at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario. I’ve served congregations in Ontario and most recently, Alberta.

I love to write and to lead worship! If you are finding my writing helpful, I would love to hear from you! Feel free to use or adapt the material here, it is all written by me. If printing material, please credit “Copyright Carol Penner” (and say whether you modified it). If publishing, please contact me for permission. Contact me at

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