AP NEWS

Church service imparts hope on attendees dealing with loss

December 20, 2018

Senior Pastor Timothy Sloan was aware that an event about loss would contrast with the joy currently in the air.

But it was necessary, he said, since no one should grieve on their own, especially during the holidays. To address that, The Luke Church, which Sloan has led for 16 years, hosted a “Service of Remembrance” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, offering a chance for those experiencing loss — of someone or something, be it recent or long ago — to gather, co-reflect and share the emotional burden.

“This is our second year doing this, and hopefully people will be able to look around throughout the process of this evening and say, ’I got a community that stands with me — I’m not alone,” Sloan said. “Tonight, I hope that it’s a time of support for many.”

He added that “never alone” was also one of two most valuable things his late grandmother taught him; the other being to stay stable in the faith.

Karen Heard’s father passed on Sept. 4. She said fellow church goers tend to contact her or pray for her, gestures that made her process of adapting to “the new normal” — one where she could no longer call him on the way to work, or from there to home — slightly easier.

For the three-year special education teacher of Pasadena’s Elmer G. Bondy Intermediate School, the church is a crucial component of her life. Perhaps more so during this period.

“I feel like if I keep pressing my way here, eventually I’ll get to that point where the memories won’t bring the sorrow or tears but made me happy,” Heard said, her father’s army tags around her neck. “Happy tears.”

After a sermon focusing on hope and healing in times of sadness, Sloan asked attendees to let the church’s personnel lite up the candles given to them and passed the fire around. He then asked everyone to stand as the lights darkened.

Tears fell. A solemn score rose. Strangers then embraced one another — some next to each other, some in a different row.

Atascocita High School senior Natalie DeQuir could be seen among the crowd. Tonight she wanted to commemorate her friend Chloe Robison, one of two 16-year-olds killed in a drunk-driving accident in July.

Earlier, at the encouragement of her youth pastor, she shared with the crowd a little bit about her friendship with Robison, someone who, though stubborn, had a beautiful smile and could effortlessly work the room.

“I wanted people to understand that teens go through this problem, too,” DeQuir said. “We’re not trying to forget them, we’re just trying to move forward and hold onto the memories that we have of them. She’ll always be in my heart. Always.”

Sloan was one of the church members whom DeQuir credited was a source of reassurance at the time. She said the funeral was held in this church.

“You don’t have to be afraid of that, that remembering is a part of the process of healing and hope,” Sloan said. “I want to encourage them to not be afraid to remember, to deal with the challenge of emotion that they have to wrestle with.”

nguyen.le@chron.com

AP RADIO
Update hourly