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Conversation Sabbath 2018: We Invite Faith Leaders to Use the Power of the Pulpit

Posted on 06/07/2018

Conversation Sabbath began as a simple idea: Let’s encourage faith leaders to use the power of their pulpits to address the importance of talking with the people you love about the kind of care you would want (or not want) in the face of life-limiting illness, especially if you cannot speak for yourself.

Sounds simple. And it is. And it isn’t…

The simple part is that clergy already preach every week to people they know–people who trust that the words spoken from the pulpit are offered to strengthen, comfort, invite, or challenge them to live the best lives they were born to live. Thus, a sermon to encourage people to take on having “The Conversation” before there is a health crisis, would do just that: strengthen, comfort, invite, and challenge to be prepared and to prepare one’s loved ones so they wouldn’t be left stranded, in the dark, wondering, “I wonder what Mom would have wanted…?”

The simple part is that clergy already preach every week to people they know–people who trust that the words spoken from the pulpit are offered to strengthen, comfort, invite, or challenge them to live the best lives they were born to live. Thus, a sermon to encourage people to take on having “The Conversation” before there is a health crisis, would do just that: strengthen, comfort, invite, and challenge people to reflect on and express their wishes to prepare loved ones so they won’t be left stranded, in the dark, wondering, “I wonder what Mom would have wanted…?”

Sermons are grounded in texts that have inspired people for generations. They tell stories of exemplars from their traditions as well as from the pages of history and the news of the moment. These weekly offerings provide insight into the complexity of living ethical, compassionate, and loving lives. A sermon about the forthrightness of spiritual ancestors who faced their dying could provide inspiration and instruction for how to weigh questions about choosing life-extending care at any cost or how we care for one another and live fully in the face of dying.

And that’s where it becomes not-so-simple. For most people, it’s not easy to talk about dying or mortality. It’s complicated when the sanctuary is filled with children. A faith leader knows that congregants are at different places in their lives; some may have received new diagnosis or suffered a recent loss. Preparing a message that can speak to people across the spectrum of wellness and illness and age can be challenging.

We are here to help.

The Conversation Project encourages people to express their wishes for end-of-life care so that those wishes will be respected. Our Conversation Starter Kits guide you to begin by asking you to consider what matters most about living. There may come a time when a patient and their family and their health care team will need to discuss medical interventions like resuscitation or artificial nutrition or breathing assistance from a ventilator machine. In the meantime, while living life at any age or health status, we can talk about what makes a life worth living. Who do you want close to you? What do you hope for and what do you fear? What do you want to tell the people you love? What relationship do you long to heal?

We invite you to join Conversation Sabbath this fall to preach or teach on the vital, relationship-strengthening topic of talking about the reality of our mortality and the crucial importance of talking about what matters most with the people you love. To register, click here.

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