(Nashville, TN) Steam rose off the mounds of dirt when the Rev. Jay Voorhees, pastor of The City Road Chapel United Methodist Church, arrived early in the morning at Hills of Calvary Cemetery on the outskirts of Nashville. Voorhees, along with the Revs. Jeannie Alexander and Kevin Thomas, came to make sure that those buried as a part of Metro Nashville’s Indigent Burial Program would have someone present at their burial.
The Indigent Burial Program is run by the city’s Social Services Department and provides a burial plot, a casket and outer burial container, and a marker for anyone in the city who is abandoned or who is unable to afford a private funeral.
“The first time I came out here,” Voorhees said, “I was part of a graveside service for a formerly homeless individual who had no family connections. I was surprised when I arrived to find seven graves dug and learned that the city often buries several people at one time.” He said he was shocked to realize that the other six persons being buried had no one present at their burial.
“Another pastor in the area had given me a phrase from his tradition that says no one dies as long as their name is called,” Voorhees said. The phrase had stuck with him, and when he saw those being buried without anyone present, he became convinced that all the citizens of Nashville should have someone present at their burial to call out their name one last time.
Voorhees reached out to area clergy from all backgrounds to see if they would join him in offering words and prayers at the burial of each person being buried without friends and loved ones. The goal is to send two to three clergy and/or laity to each burial to offer a short ritual of remembrance. After receiving approval from the Social Services Department, Voorhees began sending information regarding the burial dates and times to the registered clergy to ensure that someone would be present.
As the three pastors looked on, hearses arrived with two of the six persons being laid to rest that morning. The caskets were removed from the vehicles and laid on the slings that would lower them into the ground. The pastors stepped forward, and Voorhees spoke, “This is Kathy, our neighbor and a citizen of our city….” The other two pastors offered poems and prayers until it was time for a benediction.
“May all who love Kathy find comfort,” Voorhees spoke, “and may her name never be forgotten.”
For more information on the Call the Name program, please visit https://callthenamenashville.com.