Not all our servicemen will return home. Some will be left to sleep in earth where they were slain. Others will die of wounds received in battle. Others will die of impaired health resulting from service.
It is most appropriate that memorial services in honor of these men should be held in their home churches. This tribute of honor may include all the features of a funeral service, and it may also include features that are different.
The suggestions made by Elder Sorensen in the accompanying article are worthy of careful study by our ministers who wUl be asked to conduct such memorial services. Nothing that we can do in honor of our fallen servicemen and in comfort of their bereaved families should be left undone.—CARLYLE B. HAYNES.
The memorial itself will in some respects resemble a funeral service, while in other ways it may be vastly different. There will naturally be some flowers. We would suggest, however, that all ribbons, etc., be removed and that the floral pieces be in the form of bouquets that would be appropriate for any church service. It has been suggested that the dress of the family and those participating should not be black, but tend toward the lighter shades.
Inasmuch as we are concerned with someone who has seen service for his country, it would be only natural to make sure that we have the national emblem displayed. We shall discover in many cases that the American Legion or some other veterans' organization may be represented in uniform, and it is altogether fitting that such a one carry the flag to its stand at the right of the pulpit on the platform.
We think it entirely within the prerogatives of the minister to suggest to the family that they present to the church a memorial of some kind in remembrance of the one in whose honor this service is held. If the church does not already have a service flag, that would make a most appropriate memorial, with the proper number of blue and gold stars.
An appropriate feature of the service would be the reading of letters,and tributes. There will be letters from the chaplain or the commanding officer and others, giving details. There may be letters from the young man to his parents, to the pastor, or to others, giving a real insight into the young man's Christian experience.
There may be others besides the pastor who should be called upon to pay tribute to the young man. In a recent memorial service we had a public school superintendent speak in commendation of the deceased young man.
In thinking of appropriate songs, either congregational or special, naturally the favorites of the deceased and the family should be chosen as far as possible. Some of these may be played as an organ prelude or postlude. Ordinarily we would avoid the strictly funeral hymns and choose hymns of assurance, dedication, hope, and trust. Remembering that we shall have present at such a service many non-Adventists, the one who brings the message of hope and comfort will have an opportunity to present some of our beliefs, especially the advent hope.
We believe it to be in keeping with the spirit of the occasion to have a prayer of dedication at the close of this part of the service, followed by a period of silence, climaxed by the call of a trumpet sounding taps just outside the church door. It may be possible to find some Adventist who can play taps. If not, there are other ways of arranging for this, such as asking an Army bugler from a near-by camp or a bugler from the American Legion to sound taps. If these plans fail, contact the Boy Scouts organization, and they will doubtless furnish a bugler.
If it is possible to have a printed or mimeographed program, it will add greatly to the service. Regular colored printed program folders are available from Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, or other religious bookstores. Perhaps the most appropriate one for a memorial service is the one called "Faith of Our Fathers." On page one, below the appropriate picture, you will merely place the words "Memorial Service," and the name of the individual in whose memory it is being held. (This might be printed or mimeographed.)
On page two would be your order of service, under a heading such as "Our Tribute of Honor." On page three you might list the names of all the servicemen from that particular church or district of churches. If there is more space than that needed for the names, A poem could be added. On page four a life sketch of the deceased serviceman could be given.
Summarizing what we have here suggested, the program would be much as follows: Organ prelude, processional, hymn of assurance by the congregation, Scripture reading and prayer, special vocal number, letters and tributes, presentation of memorial, words of comfort, prayer of dedication, period of silence, taps, special vocal number, benediction, organ postlude. During the final number on the organ the congregation will leave the church in silence, while the minister or ministers step from the platform to the immediate family to speak personal words of comfort and cheer to them, leaving with them correspondence and extra programs, which they will appreciate and cherish as time goes on.
One thing is certain, and that is that when our people need the services of the church, the ministry should stand ready and willing to serve them and bring comfort and cheer to their hearts.