Americans, Some Churches Honor the War Dead

Thousands of Americans are paying tribute today to those who have fallen in service to their country.

While many spend Memorial Day firing up their grills or taking advantage of a long holiday weekend, Americans are encouraged to honor the men and women who served to defend the freedoms Americans now cherish.

"Our veterans have given us so much, and the very least we can do is honor their sacrifices," said Mayor Thomas M. Menino on Sunday, according to the Boston Herald.

Additionally, Americans are further urged on this day not to forget the freedom they gained through the ultimate sacrifice – Jesus Christ – that broke the chains of sin.

"Without His Sacrifice, Courage, and Heroic Death on Calvary we would not have the freedom to live eternally as God intended," stated Jerome F. Gennaria, pastor at Open Door Baptist Church in Overland, Mo.

"Today as you enjoy your day off and go about your regular business, my challenge to you is to remember the Patriots. Remember the Heroes. Remember your Freedom," Gennaria said in his Memorial Day message. "But remember that freedom is useless if it doesn't have a higher goal. Free to sin is foolish but free to serve the Savior – that is precious."

While honoring the country's war dead is being heard in some pulpits, Memorial Day is typically not on the liturgical calendar of churches.

Recognizing that Memorial Day "often passes in our churches with little or no mention," the United Methodist Church released some suggested guidelines to member churches for observing the federal holiday.

Some suggestions include holding services in a civic space or a cemetery where soldiers are buried and making the services interfaith in nature.

Daniel Benedict and Dean McIntyre, who are part of the General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church, cautioned against turning services into "a rehearsal of national concerns."

"Does focusing on Memorial Day in Sunday worship move us too close to civil religion?" they posed. "Perhaps it would be more appropriate for these observances to remain primarily the domain of government and civic groups, with clergy and people participating in whatever capacity suits those public gatherings."

As churches are urged not to blur their purpose as a church and their civic obligations, Benedict and McIntyre remind Christians of the opportunity Memorial Day presents especially to help people heal from any losses.

"Participation in public observance offers Christians the opportunity to get outside our churchy bubble and be present with and to others as they struggle to come to terms with war, loss, devastation, and what it all means."