Sunday, October 31, 2004

They CAME!!!!

Stoical regular readers will remember my agonies of indecision over a suitable title for a service of remembrance and thanksgiving
last month. Tonight, being 31st October, was the service itself, and I am in a state of completely gobsmacked euphoria. One day, when I am feeling very brave and very honest, I will sit down and ponder why I am so consistently amazed when God does actually respond to the many requests for intervention I hurl his way, but for now I am simply and profoundly grateful.
We had sent out around 80 letters to those with whom we had contact via funerals during the year, and 70 of them turned up. 94 candles were lit, to mark not only the obvious bereavements that were on their hearts tonight but other more hidden losses, broken relationships, miscarriages, disappointments with self or with other people, and the silence at the end of this section of the service was so full of holiness it was almost visible....
Afterwards, people who had no regular connection with the church were saying that "they felt that they belonged here"....and were talking to and supporting each other, sharing watery smiles, a few tears and lots of memories over a glass of wine. The most unlikely members of the regular congregation appeared too, and seemed to be entirely complimentary...which is nothing short of miraculous in a church where a minor variation in the Gloria this morning was labelled a "shameful travesty". Tomorrow, I know reality will bite again, as the Great Row of the Servers, the thorny question of the Churches Together Christmas Card and all the warp and woof of parish life take centre stage, but for tonight I simply wanted to share my joy and awe at being involved in a little part of God's process of healing and restoration for his hurting people. Deo Gracias.


Caroline said...

so what DID you call it!

one day I really will sit down and think why is necessarily attributable to God, rather than attributable to you/ your relationships/ english traditions/ free wine/ lousy tv scheduling...but i suspect this is neither the time nor the place, and besides, it would probly lead to me having to get up on Sunday mornings! (I quite stunningly managed 3.00pm (GMT) today!)

love you - and good to have you back!

Kathryn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kathryn said...

The title was a typically fudged Anglican the invitations people were simply asked to a "Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving" but the service sheets were headed "Journey On" (thanks, John) with the rest as a subtitle.
As to all your other rhetorical don't really want me to answer, do you Caroline? Cos I could, but we've been here before, methinks....xKx

1 i z said...

Glad it went so well.

It clearly demonstrates that there is a need in society for something of this kind, that people just aren't finding elsewhere.

What is the implication of the suggestion that the last(?) hole much of society has, that they still look to the church to for fulfillment, is loss and bereavement?

Is it a starting place or the last toehold as the tide sweeps in?

Or maybe it's something about the extremes that make people reconnect with something they tend to feel is generally not a need in their lives? Something that the more superficial struggles to stretch to?

All questions I'm afraid, but I'm seeing this pattern in parish after parish. Rural, suburban, inner-city - same pattern.

Humble Secretary said...

In the Catholic tradition there is a mass for 1 month after a funeral (or bereavement etc) - a friend recently had one for her father - and I think there is quite a lot to be said for having a formal "event" (for want of a better word when the initial flurry has died down and thoughts are beginning to gather. Friend found that far more helpful in many ways than the funeral as her thoughts were more focussed.

Anyway - best not ponder why you are amazed when God responds but I guess you will prob be far too busy anyhow with these new folk you have found.

Sally said...

There is obviously a need out there..and you filled it..that is a huge response from 80 letters..I think the world isn't good at letting people grieve or get in touch with their feelings..maybe comments such as 'you should be getting over it by now/moving on/getting on with your life..when actually the bereaved need a chance to think about their loss, and reflect, and be sad if necessary, with others who have gone through the same thing. It is what the church should be there for, and if people connect and maybe come back on other occasions, that is a bonus! Well done x

Evo1 said...

Eyyup Chuck,

Glad it wnt so well - and indeed is going so well,


You know who

curatesdregs said...

That sounds wonderful, and so worthwhile. We had a similar event at St Whosit's, but it clashed with a Senior Citizens concert, so hardly anyone came...

Rhys Morgan said...

we did the same and about 8 or 9 days before I stopped at a local service station for petrol - the cashier said "you're the curate at St Peter's aren't you? I've lost the letter you sent about the remembrance service but I'll be there if you remind me what time it starts?

This and Christingle will soon be more popular than anything else mmmmmmm

Tony said...

We had ours last night. Called it our 'Annual Memorial Service' but with all the subtitle about remembering those who have died over the past 12 months. I have sometimes entered it in the service register as Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, but only when I can remember how to spell it, and don't call it that during the service because most who attend are to all intents and purposes unchurched - except that they have asked for clergy involvement in the funeral. Sent out 35 invitation letters, had about 100 in church (about 4 times the usual evening attendance). This year for the first time we gave everyone a candle to light if they wanted to, and nearly everyone did - though some took one home to light with other family members who had not come. It was especially poignant this year, because out of the 38 names we read out, at least 7 were members of the congregation.

Yes, this meets a real need in the community. It's hard work - for everyone there - but it feels like good and healing hard work.