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The stand "Accompaniment during mourning" at the International Church Convention - an exhibitor's report

(09.07.2014) A definitely lively presentation could be found at the 30 square meter information stand "Accompaniment during mourning" in the marquee next to the Werner-von-Linde Hall. Many facets covering the topic "Death and mourning" were presented: one corner was devoted to "star children", one wall for accompaniment during mourning for children and young persons, there were shelves with numerous specialist books, and there was a corner where one could obtain information on training to be a grief counsellor. Even appealing motto postcards could be found on the large conference table in the centre of the booth, as well as a ship containing a heap of shards. These broken fragments could then be written upon by the visitors using a waterproof pen, and symbolized the shattered dreams and unfinished tasks in the individual's life. Patchwork blankets containing memories were presented, and also a range of suitcases. The latter were provided as an incentive for reflection – "What will YOU be taking along on the journey at the end of your life?"

Precisely because this stand was designed so colourfully and creatively – and not at all bleak and dark – was the team of grief counsellors under the leadership of Jürgen Jakob absolutely overrun by mourners, ministers, teachers, and other interested persons. It had been intended to provide one or two persons for just two hours each on the stand, alternating with the next one or two persons. However, so many valuable conversations already took place on the first day prior to the official opening that it became necessary to have four persons permanently on the stand. This was then repeated on the second day of the event. It was amazing how many mourners came and asked for a short dialog. On the lawns and seats outside the marquee there were sufficient opportunities to carry out these dialogs.

Many teachers inquired about what they should say to children concerning a severe death in the congregation, others were looking for a good textbook or ideas on how devotionals could be held in the congregation. Now and then, ministers inquired concerning training or guidelines for a condolence visit. Networking also became important, for many grief counsellors and voluntary helpers from the whole of Germany had registered who wish to build up this work in the District Churches and support members in grief work parallel to soul-care work.

Following a discussion, visitors were able to make a symbolic paper footprint which could be filled in by a wish, verse or intercession, and then stuck onto the wall. Many statements on the small yellow feet deeply touched the team and other readers.

The information stand was located opposite lecture rooms in which workshops were held on Friday and Saturday with the titles "I accompany you in your mourning" and "Accompaniment during mourning following suicide". The rooms provided space for 30 persons, but the actual number was far more than double. Many participants only found a space on the floor directly in front of the lecturer.

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