In Black churches, we don’t have “funerals”. Those outside of the church may refer to them as funerals, and occasionally, we call them funerals ourselves, but the service that precedes the burial of a loved one is always called a home-going ceremony.
The purpose of a home-going ceremony is not to mourn a person’s death. It is to celebrate their life. The home-going ceremonies I’ve been to over the years are filled with joy, laughter, reminiscing, and music. You are more likely to get a funny story about the deceased at a home-going than you are to get a funeral dirge.
(We don’t *do* funeral dirges)
The Home-going is supposed to serve as a demonstration of the joy and worship that a person will witness once they get to heaven. It is a tribute to their legacy, and a display of all the love and honour that person received while they were living. There may be tears, but there is also a lot of joy.
As the descendants of slaves, the prospect of a home-going is valuable to us. When you are born with no connection to a homeland apart from the colour of your skin, you form attachments to more abstract concepts of what *home* is.
I don’t know what my true homeland is. I am a sixth-generation Canadian, but I have no idea which part of Africa gave birth to my ancestors. With such a large chunk missing from my family history, I will always feel as though I’ve lost something that may never be returned.
Fortunately, my choice to live as a (snarky) Christian gives me the right to claim Heaven as a spiritual home, which is why us black folks do so much laughing, shouting, and praising at home-goings.
“At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. Indeed, I will give you a good reputation, making you praiseworthy among all of the people of the world, when I restore your prosperity before your eyes,” says the LORD.”
After living through the shame of slavery, the pain and confusion of racism, and issues within our communities, the Home Going service gives us an opportunity celebrate our return to one place that we cannot be stolen from, cast out of, or denied full access to.
If that ain’t reason to celebrate, I don’t know what is.