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  • Funeral & Bereavement Resources for Children?

    This week I finally had that dread phone call - to conduct a baby's funeral.  I have now put together a service I am happy with and that I think will serve the needs of the family.  In due course (early next week) I'll no doubt reflect on how it went.

    What I had not appreciated was the total lack of resources 'out there' and how poor is some of what there is.  Even my prefrerred 'Waterbugs and Dragonflies' is not much use to explain to a three year old that his baby brother died; most books assume it is a grandparent who has died (and that we are all true Aryans for that matter).  I quite like 'Help Me to Say Goodbye' as a sort of multi-faith, multi-cultural attempt, but again it's still aimed at adult deaths.  Both of these books I gave to the parents, who seemed genuinely to appreciate them, along with the list I'd compliled of stuff in the local library and on the web. So, does anyone know of anything for children - especially small children - about child death so I can update my library and lists?

    Then the published liturgies!  The 'simpler' language isn't much simpler and it seems just to make children and babies into mini-adults.  I was even disappointed when I read the ideas in 'Human Rites' (apologies to the authors who have on the whole done a fantastic job with alternative liturgies).  I realise this is largely because Christian liturgies assume a greater level of owned faith and Christian knowledge than many of the people who come to us for funerals.  The most helpful thing I found (online) was what seemed to be a humanist liturgy from New Zealand! 

    At least the song the parents have chosen to include seems to me to one that helps express some of what is going on for them; Don't Stop Dancing by Creed (here) is something I'd never heard of until today but found online.  If these were people with an owned Christian faith then maybe something like Matt Redmund's Blessed be Your Name or Kendrick's For the Joys and For the Sorrows would have served a similar function.  As it is, I am really glad they have something that expresses for them the things they need to say.

    I have no problems with not singing hymns/songs and have got quite adept at balancing the content between personal integrity and mourner's desires, it just seems that our published liturgies - even the vague Baptist ones - imagine a world far removed from the one we live and work in.

    So, answers on a post card to the usual address!

  • Sun, Strawberries, Singing... and Solidarity

    I have to be honest and say I was not even remotely enthused when our last Church Meeting opted to join with St 'Smells and Bells' for a strawberry tea and 'songs of praise.'  Not because I dislike that church nor yet because I object to 'favourite hymn' services, goodness knows I've led enough, but some kind of mixture of yet more disruption to the preaching plan and, well, the dread of hymns ancient and prehistoric combined to make it all seem very unattractive, and being the minister I had no choice but to go...  A couple of hours after the event, I feel some repentance is needed as it was a good afternoon and a real opportunity for us to minister with/to our Anglican friends who face a very tough meeting this week.

    The afternoon began with bowls of locally grown strawberries and cups of that delightful brew, 'ecclesiastical tea,' served in the vicarage garden on a glorious summer afternoon.  Apart from minimal mixing between the two congregations, it was a lovely way to pass an hour - and I got some favourable comments for collecting up empty tea cups and helping wash up: a great opportunity to explain I have a diaconal ministry and deacons were originally table waiters!

    The hymns choices were actually, on the whole, good.  We had some classic 'belters' by Wesley and the like, a bit of Kendrick and some contemporary worship songs, and one of my own favourite Timothy Dudley-Smith offerings, 'Lord for the years'.  We also had a reading from Romans 8 and intercessions led by the vicar which alluded (among other things) to 1 Cor 12:26, if one part suffers, the whole body suffers.  I then used these as jumping off points to offer prayer on behalf of my people for the Anglicans - who this week face a decision not to close a building but to terminate their congregation.  In all things God works for good for those who love Him.  I gather the Greek is ambiguous as to whether it is God or the things that do the work for good; for me it has to be God who works good, as not all things are: we prayed for an awareness of God's love, peace and guidance in the decisions that are made.  If one part suffers the whole suffers: we recongised that we are one tiny cell in the whole, so are our siblings in Christ of this little Anglican church; we prayed that we would be able to support them.

    In all things God works for good: given free choice, I would not have chosen to be at this service but I was truly blessed by it.  It was an opportunity for two small churches to show solidarity in a time of uncertainty; a time for mutual support and encouragement.  It was good.  It was of God.

    I enjoyed the strawberries and sunshine, I was uplifted by the singing, but the solidarity, ministry and mystery of a God-given blessing, these are far more wonderful indeed.  As the apostle wrote, and we sang today 'one church, one faith, one Lord!'  We may never see the earthly outworking of this fulfilled, but so long as little 'smells & bells' and little (what they perceive as) 'happy clappies' can love and support each other as one in the body, then we're doing something right.


  • Crackin' Ordination Gromit!

    It was a very hot July afternoon and as a football loather (possibly a heresy worthy of the stake) I was happy to be in church for an ordination service.  The one or two spare seats, and the ability to get an aisle place anyway, meant it did not become unbearably hot, though I was very glad not to be one of the suited folk 'up front' on this occasion.

    I enjoy these events, so unashamedly Baptist in their diversity, yet united by the common elements of worship, preaching, story telling and promise making.  I am always fascinated by the choice of hymns and songs, the readings selected (and why) and, being nosy, the testimony bits never fail to appeal.  Today's service was no exception, and I came away proud to be Baptist and encouraged in my own ministry.  It was a crackin' do.

    The text, John 2:1 - 11, is one I more naturally associate with marriage services, though perhaps there is a natural similarity between marriage and ordination promises/vows, and the sermon combined humour and colour with some profound reflections on ministry.  I even had a little smile to myself as a reference was made to a Bible story - Jesus walking on water - that I had used when I led devotions during this person's college interview over 3 years ago.  God's Spirit and God's humour!  So, just in case the preacher happens this way and wants to be sure I listened, the five points, as I heard them, were...

    Ministry as celebration - joyful, fun and abundant

    Ministry in the midst of life - not chaplain to the saints locked in a church building

    Ministry as priesthood - pontifical - where each acts a bridge taking the needs of others to Christ

    Ministry as authority - under God/Christ and relational

    Ministry as the reflection of the glory of God in the world - embodied/incarnational


    It was good stuff, I guess easy to hear because I'd endorse what I heard/understood it to say, but no less challenging.

    This was the first time for a long time that I went to an ordination service without a 'job' to do, and it was a real privilege simply to receive as a member of the congregation.  It was good silently to re-affirm my own ordination promises and to renew my own commitment to walk in ways 'known and to be made known' to use that lovely old Baptist covenant expression.  It was good to sing songs that reflected the reality of life - joys and sorrows, a conscious choice to bless God's name no matter what, and of a God who is faithful.  Ministry for me certainly combines all sorts of experiences and emotions, and these were songs I could 'own.'

    Hopefully the newly ordained minister will be able to turn the gift I gave him into wine - and when he next passes this way to be assured that this, not wierd testing kits with dip sticks that turn blue in certain liquids, is a far better demonstration that the process 'worked', or has begun to work.  More importantly, I pray that he will find his ministry enjoyable and rewarding.

    In the words of St Wallace the Hairbrained, 'crackin'.