Saturday, November 02, 2013

Journey On

"Our past is wrapped up in the heart of God, and of our future he will take care"

Each year since I've been at St Matthew's, we have invited our funeral families to join us for two very different kinds of remembering.
Of course we offer the traditional All Souls Requiem - and every year I am almost overwhelmed by the weight of privilege and responsibility as I read aloud that list of names - some long gone, some whose funerals I've taken just a few weeks before.
But I remember all too well that feeling of waiting to hear my parents' names read out...the leaden weight on my heart as we journeyed through the alphabet towards "W" for "Warner".
It was almost unbearable - something I really don't think many people are ready for in the first months and years of bereavement.

So, though we tell our funeral families that the Requiem will take place, and many ask for their dead to be remembered there, we also offer them a gentler way to pause on their journey, to bring their sadness and their gratitude to God, and engage with all that is happening inside them as they move hesitantly towards healing.
This afternoon some 40 of them gathered, dodging the downpours that seemed to underline just how tough the going is when you're mourning...
They arrived chilled and dripping, somewhat bedraggled - and the church did feel like a sanctuary as we listened to the wind getting up outside.
Each one of those present represented a story of remarkable courage...
The son who had cared devotedly for his mother through long years of dementia
The mother whose son took his own life when the world seemed to harsh to endure
The young mum and her sister who came remembering a baby lost to SIDS - but who came with their arms full of the toddler who is not a replacement but is so very clearly a sign of hope.
Each of them has mourned and struggled and wondered if there was really any point to getting up in the morning.
Each of them, simply by being there, reminded us
"And now faith, hope and love remain - these three"

Their presence in church represented a huge act of faith - and an expression of hope, that the darkness of loss would not hold them forever.
And the love? Well, that was evident in everything that they did...
In the tears and the smiles as they lit candles and remembered - of  course - but still more in the care that they took of one another as we gathered for tea and far too much cake in the church hall.

The wonderful Ally Barrett had written a new All Souls hymn this year, which we sang just before we embarked on lighting the candles.
Its words carried exactly the message I wanted to leave with today's congregation
We place into your hands, O Lord,
our future and our past:
And as you bless us on our way,
and travel with us night and day,
your love will hold us fast,
your love will hold us fast.

So often in ministry, my job is to get out the way so that God can work.
Today I watched as these lovely, beloved and hurting people reached out as agents of God's healing for each other.
Indisputably, non-negotiably holy ground - where I am privileged to have stood for just a little while.


Stephen said...

I just want to send love to such a loving and sensitive priest. I am sure your people know how blessed they are by your presence in their lives. x

seethroughfaith said...

bless you
you show such love for those in your charge <3