Minister's Monthly Letter
Our annual Memorial service is held on the Sunday nearest to All Saints Day November 1st.
It takes place at 4.30 in the afternoon at and as a congregation we try and invite all those in our church family who have been bereaved in the last 12-15 months. But – and this is a very important but –absolutely anyone who wishes is very welcome to attend the service. A letter giving full information about the service is made available in the church entrance.
As part of the service those attending are invited to light a candle (which we provide) and, if they wish, to have the name or names of loved ones read out in the service. After the time of worship there is the opportunity to sit quietly in the church, go home or to share the light refreshments provided.
All Saints has been on the church calendar for many centuries but services in the style outlined above have been a fairly recent development. They sustain our contact with those who have been bereaved and can provide an opportunity for family and friends to gather in remembrance of a loved one.
Churches who have conducted such services for many years speak of providing an opportunity for those who know the annual pattern to attend to mark the passing of a particular birthday or anniversary. The service becomes a staging post in life since a bereavement.
In its own quiet way the service also provides an opportunity to face and explore important issues about life and death.
There are two – equal and opposite - trends with regard to death and dying in our society. On one hand individuals distance themselves from the facts. Market research agency Mintel (2014) reports that less than 16% of people have made written funeral plans although 61% of those questioned feel that it is important to do so.
Meanwhile the growth of annual memorial services, led not just by churches, but by crematoria and funeral directors also, shows an appreciation of opportunities to engage with questions about death and dying.
I recently came across a set of 52 questions covering five key areas – Life, death, society, funerals and grief – that can be used to initiate conversation. It doesn’t matter if you only use one question – or work through all of them! The purpose is to talk and listen. It is suggested this could take place in a café setting.
I have two questions. Is this resource something that it would be good to explore in the life of our church family? If you would like to do so please let me know. Secondly, and in the longer term, are these questions something we could offer in the wider context of the village?
Rev Bob Sneddon