Death / funerals seem to be an underlying theme for me at the moment. We have to start with Easter where sorrowful death is overtaken by resurrection joy. Soon after that we have the announcement of the death of HRH Prince Philip. Whilst there was much media reflection on a life well lived there was also a desire to get to the human story of what the family were going through and bringing in to this public grief. From our perspective we know of the strength of faith of both the Queen and Prince Philip and the proximity to Easter must surely have helped in the grieving process.
The third strand to the theme for me is part of my ongoing training where I’m in a small group (cohort) which meets via Zoom once a month. During the year we are reviewing a book, this year “Worship that Cares – An Introduction to Pastoral Liturgy” by Mark Earey. The theme of the book is to offer insights in to ensuring that worship cares – in it and through it people can experience the love of God and the pastoral care of the Church. Whilst this can apply to all services of worship there is a focus on what are called occasional offices – baptisms, weddings, funerals and ministry to the sick – wholeness and healing. This month it is my turn to review a chapter, that on funerals, all 50 pages of it…
Whilst offering a form of toolkit there is much background material including how things have developed over history and within different denominations of worshipping communities. There is much complexity but the book carefully lifts one back out of this to ensure that the focus remains on meeting the needs (equally complex) of those attending the event – in my case funerals. One comment which struck me was that “funeral liturgy belongs to the wider community. It is not the property of the minster taking the service, nor even of the bereaved close family (though they may feel it belongs to them). Rather, the expectations belong to the wider community, and therefore, so does the sense of whether it is ‘proper’.” (p.195).
So we’re led back to the context in our lives of an upcoming funeral for HRH Prince Philip which I think exemplifies the quote above wonderfully. No matter how much the Queen and her family want to do things their way, there is this sense of public ownership where we determine what is ‘proper’. Whilst we of faith have our own various ways of what is ‘proper’ may we also be guided to consider the needs of others and continue to live your own lives in faith.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (Good News Translation)
Living by Faith
16For this reason we never become discouraged. Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day. 17And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble. 18For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever.
Give rest, O Christ, to thy servant Philip with thy saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing but life everlasting.
With all blessings from the Staff and Leadership Team