Yesterday was the final day of the Baptist Assembly in Scotland and it was a good day. The thoughts on work with children and young people were brought together in some powerful and striking prayers of confession about our attitudes towards these members of our churches. Recognising and naming that sometimes people are secretly glad when the children 'go out' or that we can see them as 'bait' to bring adults into church was important, and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to confront my own sins in this respect.
The closing worship included a 'come forward to receive' communion with some creative elements such as the opportunity for prayer and anointing and symbolic transforming of burdens at the cross. Although the logistics didn't quite work, with queues getting tangled and it all taking a lot longer than envisaged by the planners, it was meaningful and moving. The background music of the Barber Adagio for strings (in a choral version, if that makes sense) momentarily transported me to the 'In Memoriam' of the English Assembly, something I missed here. As someone who does 'mystery' alongside a (stubborn!) Zwinglian view of communion, it was a special moment.
How stark the contrast then, as I alighted from the subway and picked up a voicemail on my phone to let me know that one of my Dibley folk had died suddenly. Shock, numbness, helplessness and the fact that of course these are not, in the former way, 'my' people cut right through the warm fuzzies like knife. A few phone calls later and I had done all I could - all I can - to respond. This death was a shock for everyone, not one of the frail folk but one who only the day before had been out and about doing what he always did; one of those you sort of thought would go on for ever; one of those diamonds in the rough for whom you have a very soft spot (whilst simultaneously trying to repair the damage they cause along the way).
Tonight I am sharing in a service called 'Grieving and Gratitude', a kind of All Saints and All Souls space for people bereaved recently or long ago. I never anticipated it being quite so significant in my calendar! If you know Dibley, please hold them in your prayers, if you don't please think of those you know who live with the tension of gratitude for lives lived and grief of loved ones lost.