I know so many of the names scrolling on the screen. Two are men from the congregation I serve now. I planned and preached their funerals, actually. Yet, most of the names I recognize were never Disciples of Christ, at least not denominationally speaking. They were, most certainly, disciples of Christ, functionally speaking. Some, of course, were better disciples than others, or at least less crazy disciples.
One was the father of one of my college professors. I only knew him well after he was the president of a seminary. He still tried to convince me to attend that seminary, though.
Another was a legendary professor at my undergraduate institution. Let's just say the legends about him were not exactly favorable, but legends nonetheless.
Another was the wife of an Old Testament professor. In between the leaving of one professor and the hiring of another, he came out of retirement to teach a class.
A grandfather of a classmate. One of the little old ladies who was in assisted living when I led worship services there. If the city listed with the name was Johnson City or Elizabethton, Tennessee, the name was likely familiar.
They're all people I remembered from a life in a different tradition, and a life very different from the one I lead now. There are so, so many twists and turns to end up in that auditorium, watching the names scroll across the screen.
Oh--and those names: in worship at each General Assembly, the Pension Fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) submits a list of names of those members who have died in the two years since the last General Assembly. There was a time when I could tell you the history in depth, but that time has passed. I know, however, that while the Pension Fund is Disciples of Christ, they offer their services to pastors in all of the Stone-Campbell Movement. I'm sure that's because the Pension Fund existed long before the restructure of Disciples of Christ that created a couple of different entities that were once one. Perhaps the greatest failure of that Stone-Campbell movement is that it splintered in to multiple groups at all. The tradition that valued unity, that hoped for unity, that prayed for unity, couldn't hold onto it, either.
Yet, there is this beautiful confession at each General Assembly: these who have died are ours. They are ours as disciples of Christ if not Disciples of Christ. They are ours in their beauty and in their flaws. They are ours because because we are all the Church, even if our churches don't get along so well. Even in that brokenness of Church, still we can commend all of these saints to God.
For this beautiful gesture of grace in these names scrolling across a screen, I am deeply grateful. After all, the God who loves all, who created all, will surely welcome all in whatever comes after. Thanks be to God that we can recognize all our saints even in our brokenness.