Rev. Rhonda Kouterick offered balm for the grieving at AC2022 Memorial Service
At the 2022 Upper New York (UNY) Annual Conference, friends and families, both in-person and watching via livestream, remembered and celebrated the lives of the 27 UNY clergy, 24 UNY clergy spouses, and lay persons who have passed away since the last Annual Conference. Click here for the Memorial Service booklet that names those who were celebrated in this service. The service was held on Oct. 7 at Liverpool United Methodist Church.
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb expressed sadness that in-person guests had to be limited because of the high number of COVID cases in Onondaga County.
He said, “There are a lot of things I don’t like about COVID—one of the pieces is that we cannot meet in person at services to celebrate loved ones that have gone onto glory. But I also know that Jesus said that when two or more are gathered in my name, I am there.”
The Rev. Rhonda Kouterick was the Memorial Service speaker.
In her message, she used words from the book of Jermiah to show how the prophet laments.
In Jeremiah 8:18 (GNT), he said, “My sorrow cannot be healed; I am sick at heart”.
And while the cause of Jeremiah’s sorrow differs from those who have lost loved ones, still, he grieved, saying, “My heart has been crushed…; I mourn; I am completely dismayed.” (8:21 GNT).
Jeremiah asked the Lord, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there (22a NIV)??
“Why is there no healing for the wounds of my people (22b NLT)?”
Rev. Kouterick illustrated that there is balm for those who have lost loved ones.
First, she spoke of passages in the Bible that are medicinal at such times.
She said, “For me, the words of familiar scripture passages are medicinal, a soothing balm which comforts and strengthens, especially over this past year as I’ve grieved for a parent and dear colleagues.”
She used examples from Deuteronomy, Exodus, and Luke:
- “The eternal God is (y)our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deut. 33:27a NIV )
- "You saw what I, the LORD, did … how I carried you as an eagle carries her young on her wings, and brought you here to me.” ( Ex.19:4 GNT)
- Paul said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23 42-43 NIV)
Expressions of sympathy and love
Rev. Kouterick discussed how the support from family and friends can help heal us when we grieve. She said, “We also find healing in the embrace of loved ones, the hugs from friends; the phone calls, and cards, messages expressing care and concern. They are a balm in Gilead, making real the strength of God’s love.
Rev. Kouterick explained that memories can help loved ones heal. She said, “The memories and the stories we tell of times shared bring us the healing balm of both tears and laughter.”
Rev. Kouterick emphasized that remembering God’s grace is the ultimate balm to help the grieving heal; she said, “We find solace and hope in God’s grace; and in the kind understanding of others who bear with us and love us back to life.”
Rev. Kouteick asked guests to remember the countless hours that those being honored at this service spent in ministry.
She said, “Think for a moment of the number of sermons preached, the calls made, the hands held, and sacraments given; remember the tireless support of spouses, their prayers and help; and for all – remember their passion for the work, the committees they served on, the many meetings they attended, the miles driven and hours spent on the work of the church. Think too of the countless number of people whose lives they touched, through worship, Sunday School, church work and daily living, their influence, the incalculable difference each one has made in the world by staying on the path and aligning themselves with God’s larger purpose.”
Rev. Kouterick urged guests to stay on the path by remembering the words of John 14:1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe in me also.”
Click here to watch a video recording of the 2022 Annual Conference Memorial Service.