I’ve adopted a statement in my funerals for church members that they “have departed from the church visible and joined the church eternal”.
Last Sunday some churches observe a day named All Saints Day, which at its best is a time when the church visible fully acknowledges that the departure from the church visible to the church eternal does not mean those saints are no longer with us; rather, they’re just no longer physically present. Their witness and fellowship continue.
From Will Willimon:
On All Saints’ Day the church gathers with the dead. We name all those who told us about Jesus and who walked with Jesus in such a way that we wanted to walk with Christ too. The communion of saints comprises the church. Remembrance of and gratitude for the saints keep the church from being reduced to the merely present moment and the church’s membership from being limited to those who currently sit in the pews. The church recalls its dead through time, honours their bodies in its funeral practices, and looks forward by looking back. Thus, the church is a community of memory. Memory enables us to see God acting through time, making historians of us all.
William H Willimon, Aging – Growing Old In Church, Baker Academic, 2020, pg 115.