Los Angeles honors the unclaimed with an interfaith burial service

Religion News Service | 12/5/2019 | Alejandra Molina
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LOS ANGELES (RNS) — Dozens of people gathered under blue tents in the pouring rain Wednesday (Dec. 4) for an interfaith service honoring the unclaimed dead who were buried at the Los Angeles County Crematorium Cemetery.

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“Today is the day in which we as a community say, ‘We’ve kept the remains and now it’s time to put them in the earth,’” said the Rev. Chris Ponnet, who has coordinated the services for more than a decade.

The ceremony, in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, was held in remembrance of those 1,457 who died in 2016 and whose cremated remains have stayed in the county’s possession for three years.

People - Stories - Spirit - Traditions - Ponnet

“These people came from different stories, from different spirit traditions,” said Ponnet, director of spiritual care at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. “I want to pay respect. That’s my goal, to get as diverse of a service as possible.”

The burial ground, in a Native American tradition, was blessed with sage during the ceremony. A rabbi read from Psalm 23 and Chaplain Nick Jordan recited the Christian Lord’s Prayer that was repeated by others in Spanish and Tagalog. Members of the Zen Center of LA led a Buddhist chant. Others recited a poem in honor of the city and its residents.

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The Street Symphony Chamber Singers sang a piece by Maurice Duruflé as attendees paid their respects by burning incense that was then spread onto the burial ground where the cremated remains were put to rest.

The Rev. Elizabeth Gibbs Zehnder helped close the ceremony with a blessing call for the children, teenagers, adults, immigrants and others without a home who were unclaimed. As she called for the blessings, participants responded in Spanish with, "Presente."

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For Alice Murray, with the Street Symphony Chamber...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Religion News Service
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