Is the annual "service of remembrance & thanksgiving" we offer to those families with whom we have had contact through funeral ministry in the course of the past two years...
In format it is pretty much identical to the service I produced for my training parish, but while their service occupied the Evensong slot at 6.30 on a Sunday night, and was followed by strong drink, ours, reflecting a rather different social context, is an afternoon event - with tea to follow.
This year there were over 80 families on my invitation list, but in the eventabout half that smaller number gathered - whom I devoutly hope were the people who really needed to be there...We sang, we prayed, we lit candles and I talked about the seeds of faith and hope that we carry within us, the seeds that make us carry on, even when it seems an almost insurmountable struggle. I'm never sure if the candle lighting or the tea is the most important aspect of this service; there were some deep and significant conversations as we tried our best to do justice to a bewildering array of cakes...but when I locked the church this evening, it was the cross of tea-lights that nearly undid me.
Always when I invite the congregation to come forward to light a candle, I make it clear that they can use the opportunity to place ANY bereavement, - a broken dream, a lost hope - within the circle of God's healing love. Many chose to light more than one candle, and as I stood in the darkened church, alone at last after such a busy time, those lights shouted to me of untold, unknown stories. But, after all, I don't need to know...Each light stands both as a silent prayer and as a statement of intent. In this place, for these people, death SHALL have no dominion..."It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness"