Magazine article The Christian Century

Grave Digging

Magazine article The Christian Century

Grave Digging

Article excerpt

I keep a 36-inch utility shovel in my church office. Its handle leans gently against the shelf holding my favorite theological volumes. Office guests have eyed that shovel curiously over the years, though none of them have gathered the gumption to ask about it. Maybe they think I'm part pastor, part contractor. An antique construction level hangs on the adjoining wall--a reminder to keep life in balance.

With this shovel, I dig the graves that hold the cremains of our congregation's saints. Purchased at a hardware store for $21, it has become the holiest shovel I've ever held. I don't even risk it to the custodian's safekeeping, fearful that it might get used for purposes other than turning sacred soil in a graveyard.

Church members who elect to be buried in our memorial garden take the "earth to earth, ashes to ashes" claim very seriously. They know that rich and poor get buried side by side in these unmarked graves. Brilliant and broken people rest together beneath the dahlia and delphinium. These people trust the conviction that something holds greater value at death than their ancestral lineage, bloodline, surname, or even a box to hold these familial treasures. That something is called baptism, specifically baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

On the way to a Friday dinner date, I asked my wife if she would mind stopping by the church. I had a grave to dig before the rain came as predicted for the next morning. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.