Tomorrow we have a 'difficult' funeral here in Dibley, as we say farewell to one of our younger members (in their fifties).
As I arrived at school today to set up, the locum caretaker, with whom we have a great relationship (along with the regular one) asked me it was possible still to believe in God when this happened. I was able to quote a conversation I'd had with this person a few weeks back in which she'd told me how even as a young person she'd appreciated that faith in God wouldn't guarantee immunity from suffering or struggle, but would give her strength to live through it. I went on to say that the God I believe in is not like a geni in a bottle who grants our every wish. He thought for a moment, smiled and said, I guess if it was like that, the place would be full every week. I'm not sure he was convinced of God, but he listened and will clearly think more - and this woman's faith continues to touch others.
A little later the next youngest person to me (she's 6 months older! We are the babies of the church) arrived to set out the tea things. As we talked about tomorrow's service, she asked who I had to talk to about it all, and how did I cope. After I'd explained about hiding behind the 'dog collar' (being in role) and how I'll clear off for an hour or two after the event to unwind, she just said, well you can come to my house if you need to. This woman is a quiet saint, never in your face with her faith, honest with her struggles and questions, yet she gets it.
The service went off alright, if a little subdued by events; I came home with final preparation to do for tomorrow but having glimsped something of the grace of God in an agnostic caretaker and quiet disicple.
May God grant me the grace and courage to hold God's people in my heart tomorrow.