The Church Talks about Death! Part 1


The Church Talks about Death!  Part 1 - Advance Directives

                                       Beware if a raven flies onto your shoulder.

Not to be morbid or anything like that but (I think you know where this is going…) I’ve been thinking about the end, the great beyond, pie in the sky. You know, death and dying. It’s been one of those years. No, let me re-state it: this has been one of the weirdest and darkest years ever. From COVID-19 to wildfires to chaos reigning – this is one for the books. Yes, I've been thinking about death. So there.

Not long ago I received an email from Susan Howlett. For many of you, that name doesn’t ring a bell. But for those of us in the development world, Susan Howlett is the bomb (is that still a cool thing to say? Oh well…). Susan is a nationally-known development speaker/workshop leader. She is the author of a book that is well-read and dog-eared by me: Boards on Fire! Inspiring Leaders to Raise Money Joyfully. Over the years we have become friends; we trade ideas and inspiration.
Seems like Susan’s been thinking about the great by-and-by too. She attends University Unitarian Church in Seattle. Over the years, she’s been the leader of their stewardship team and she wanted to tell me about what she’s been doing during the pandemic.
To give you a head’s up, an “advance directive” is a legal document that explains how you want medical decisions about you to be made if you cannot make the decisions yourself.
Here’s Susan’s email (edited for brevity):

Cesie - I just hosted a workshop on Advance Directives for anyone who wanted to come. We all know we’re supposed to have those forms filled out, and we’ve all started them at some point but we don’t get them signed, notarized, and filed appropriately.

I said we’d offer a step-by-step walk through with a professional who could answer everyone’s questions in real time on Zoom, and then we’d have a support group help everyone actually get them DONE by the end of summer. I found a mobile notary and we’re going to do a signing hour in my garden since some of the people were having trouble finding witnesses to go with them to a notary.

A few gentle reminders will be followed next week by a final Zoom meeting to celebrate those who finished theirs, and answer questions and encourage those who haven’t yet. All put on for free by the Stewardship Team, so people see that we don’t just come alive once a year to ask for money.

Since some interesting stuff came up during the conversation (35 people attended), we’re going to do a follow-on session about death and dying and another on wills and planned giving – all sponsored by the Stewardship folks.

What a positive way for the church to look at death and end-of-life issues. And the church took the lead – imagine that. I know that our church’s legacy committee has already found a person to conduct a similar workshop. Now it’s just scheduling a time without worrying about a place. We know exactly where this will happen – in the comfort of everyone’s home.
I asked Susan how she advertised the program because that seemed to be a little awkward. But, as I assumed, Susan had just the right words and said we could steal them freely:

Time to Get Your Ducks in a Row?
Have you started your health care directives or end-of-life planning paperwork a thousand times, only to get discouraged part way through and abandon the effort? Confused about what even applies to you and your family? Don’t know how to get something notarized during quarantine?  Why not take a little time this summer and get it all tied up?

UUC is hosting a free workshop on Advance Directives, including support afterward to make sure you get them finished!  Join us for a 90-minute webinar at noon on August 13. You’ll learn firsthand how to wrangle that pesky paperwork [here’s where she advertised who was doing the workshop]… Get your wishes organized and down in writing, and give the gift of planning to your loved ones.

All participants will receive copies of End of Life Washington's advance directive for healthcare, as well as Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare documents.  Register for this no-cost event here:

Once again, bravo to Susan and her church for their willingness to Talk. About. Death. You know and I know that we are all thinking about it. And as people of faith – who don’t (or shouldn’t) live in fear of death – we can be setting the example of ways to live and love and plan for the future. Go ahead, talk about death!


A point of personal privilege: Two weeks ago, I mentioned that our old black Lab was sick. I’m heartbroken to report that JayD passed away last Friday night. She was the best-dog-ever and truly lived up to her initials: Joyful Dog. We are getting used to new routines and we aren’t happy about it at all. Thanks for 12 wonderful years, JayD. We miss you.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past fifteen years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over three million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She wants to thank Pamela N-M for sending this beautifully appropriate video, “We Are Not Alone.” Cesie is available to consult with churches. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity or at CesieScheuermann.com.

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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.