But rarely do we confront the grim fact that most of us are engaged in relentless palliative care.
Everywhere I turn, whether it be in individual parishes, dioceses, or theological schools, the picture is the same. There is very little immediate hope for resurrection. And so there is another type of denial that we adopt and I believe it is a far more dangerous than the illusion that the dying member or the dying parish will miraculously survive.
There is also denial of death that clergy fall prey to when death has become too commonplace. When the singularity of the parishioner or the closure of the church is subsumed into a general form of mourning. Clergy can easily become too familiar with death, too accustomed to its phases and rhythms as though a discrete death were simply a bit part in a larger drama. But of course it is not.
Viscounts Swapping Stories
Mourning itself is in a certain sense quite the opposite of work. Because mourning is also something of a gratuitous event. To do it correctly is to set aside all the acquired skills honed by the professional minister.
To do it correctly is to remember the dead in their singularity, in their messiness, in their relationships with oneself and with others. As Derrida writes in his inimitable way:.
In order to succeed [mourning] would well have to fail, to fail well. That is what would have to be. And while it is always promised, it will never be assured.
The work of mourning is to become adept at failure. It is best done, and can only be sustained, through surrender. Derrida cites his friend, Belgian poet and art critic Max Loreau, who captures something of this. Memory without knowing it opens …..
Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International
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