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  • Funeral Prayers for Babies

    Tomorrow I have to conduct a funeral for a baby - only the second time I've done this - and I looked back over my notes from the last time to see what I could adapt for this time (I was called yesterday afternoon and don't meet the parents until this afternoon, it's all being done in a rush, at least by local standards).  As I read over my order of service, I found I had used a prayer that I really liked, and which having checked it out is adapted from one of Jewish origin.

    Because it is so useful, I have reproduced it here in its orignal form:

    Lord, without our consent we are born, without our consent we live, without our consent we die, without our consent our bodies return to the grave and we go forward to life everlasting.  We cannot always understand Your plans and we do not see Your ways, for our minds are overwhelmed and ur eyes too weak.  Yet to comfort us and give us hope You lift the veil of eternity, and we are permitted to know that the world is a corridor, and we are on a journey, that the end is perfection, and the reward is peace.

    For a short time You gave into our care a child whom we loved. Our hearts would be broken if we did not know that You are love itself, which makes good all that is lost.  The tears would never leave our eyes if we did not know that at the end You bring all together, with mercy and tenderness, in the gathering of life.  Therefore with sadness and hope we commend the soul of N into your care.  You are with her/him, we cannot fear.


    And here is my order of service, with generic prayers, for neonatal or young baby's funeral:

    Entrance Music

    Opening Sentences and Readings

    We meet together today to say our farewells NAME, to give thanks for the love and hope she/he awakened, to celebrate her/his short life and to commend her/him to the care of God. Everyone who is here today has come because, in some way, NAME’s life, and her/his death, has touched their own.

    As we meet, we are each aware of our own feelings: of injustice, of shock, of bewilderment, maybe even of anger. These feelings are not wrong; there are questions to which we will never find answers. There are also sources of comfort and hope for a time such as this, and the ancient writing of the Bible, telling the stories of people like us, speaks of a God who understands our pain and confusion and who promises to be with us in every moment.

    Matthew 5:4

    Jesus said ‘blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted’

    Hebrews 13:5b

    God has said, ‘I will never leave you: I will never abandon you.’


    Deuteronomy 33:27a

    The eternal God is our hiding place; he carries us in his arms


    Lamentations 3: 21-24 GNB

    Hope returns when I remember this one thing:

    The LORD's unfailing love and mercy still continue,

    Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise.

    The LORD is all I have, and so in him I put my hope.


    NAME had a short life, growing in the quiet security of his/her mother’s womb and X brief [spring/summer/autumn/winter] days/weeks/months in the world we share. In that short time she/he was loved by many, and today our thoughts and prayers are with those who have known and loved her/him best: her/his parents, A and B; sisters …. and brothers …..

    Meeting the context of Christian worship, we come into the presence of this same God with our prayers.

    Father God,

    We come before you now in our brokenness and pain, with our questions and anxiety, needing reassurance that we are not alone in this moment but that you are here with us. Your word tells us that you are a safe place for us, and at this time we seek the sanctuary of your arms.

    We come to you to give thanks for NAME, for the hope and love she/he awoke within us, for the dreams we dreamed and the plans we dared to plan. We come to thank you for the way that she/he has changed our own lives for the better and shown us that worth is not measured in years or earthly achievements.

    We come to commit NAME and ourselves into your safekeeping, to find a place of release for our grief and the courage to face the future without her/him.

    God of healing and compassion, hear this our prayer, which we offer in the NAME of Jesus who said ‘let the little children come to me and do not stop them, for the Kingdom of God beings to such as these.’ Amen.


    Hymn/Song, if desired

    Poem or other reading, if desired

    Bible Reading

    Psalm 139: 13- 16a

    You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother's womb.

    I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful. I know it with all my heart.

    When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother's womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there - you saw me before I was born.

    Psalm 23: 4

    I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won't be afraid. You are with me, and your shepherd's rod makes me feel safe.



    To acknowledge and celebrate life before birth and, however short, in the world; to name aloud the questions/hurts that are real, recognising there are no satisfactory answers; to give thanks for the hope and love this fleeting life awoke in others, if appropriate recalling special moments; to give hope in the darkness of loss

    Hymn or Music, if desired


    Father God, we thank you for the life of NAME, for the hope and love she/he awakened in her/his parents, siblings, grandparents and wider circle of family and friends. We thank you for the courage and determination she/he showed, clinging to life and allowing his family to know her/him, if only for a moment. Though our hearts are breaking and we will miss her/him terribly, we thank you that she/he is free from suffering and pain.

    We pray for her/his parents, for A and B, each needing to be strong for the other (and for their children), yet each one needing space to grieve. May they each find comfort in the love of family and friends at this time. We pray for …. as they mourn their baby sister/brother; please help them to understand what it means to say goodbye to NAME. May they know the security of their family’s love as they find the strength to go on into the future.

    We pray for the wider circle of family and friends, to many to name but each with special needs on this day. Help them to support each other and find comfort and hope for the future.

    For a short time you gave into our care a little girl/boy to love. Our hearts would be forever broken if we did not have the assurance that you are love and always here with us. Our tears would never stop flowing if we did not know your mercy and tenderness. And so it is as hope and sorrow mix together, that we thank you for NAME and commend him to you. In Jesus name, Amen.

    Commendation and Committal

    Please would you stand as a mark of repsect for NAME

    Heavenly Father, you have given us life and in Jesus you promise a new life, which nothing can destroy. We entrust NAME into your safe-keeping: greet her/him with your love and surround her/him with your healing power so that she/he may live in your presence as a whole child of God, for your glory and delight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    We have given thanks for NAME’s life, we have commended her/him to the grace of Almighty God, and now we must say farewell and release her/his body to be cremated…

    Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust

    In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.


    The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord life up the light of his countenance upon you and give you peace.


    Music, as desired

  • Authoritative Sources?!

    This morning I received an email asking me to sign an online petition which said 'it seems this one is genuine, I've checked it out on Google and Facebook'  What?!!!!!!!

    I have subsequently checked reliable sources which show the petition concerned to be 'well meaning but misguided' based on a flawed understanding of some complex legal stuff.  Getting petitions taken seriously is hard enough when they are well founded, but this kind of thing flying through the ether only harms their value.

    The other week when I was visiting my Mum someone stopped us to sign a petition on warden services for sheltered housing.  She signed it, being directly affected; I declined saying 'I don't live in your area so it would undermine the authenticity of your work.'  'Oh, just put a fake address down' the man said... What?!!!!! (again) - do they really not appreciate that random checks do get done to check authenticity and that good intention is undermined when M Mouse signs yet another petition.

    Too much easy information and too little responsibility seems to give authority to twaddle and worse.  But, seemingly, if we want to get taken seriously by the masses then Facebook is the place for pronouncements - how scary is that?

  • Ephesians 6 in a violent world

    Yesterday we joined D+2 for a picnic and open-air service at Bosworth battlefield.  The sun shone (so presumably their prayers received their desired answer) and a pleasant afternoon was had.  But I was uncomfortable with the choice of hymns - lots of war imagery and battle language - which, whilst it connected with the location and the reading chosen (Jehosophat's victory) didn't sit too well with the daily reports of military deaths in Afghanistan, to say nothing of the civilian deaths in endless violence.  Wars on terror and battles with knife crime... not helpful.  Nor, for me, was singing 'onward Christian soldiers' (a hymn I've never liked anyway!)

    This Sunday should be Ephesians 6 - the 'gospel armour' passage, but we are deferring it a week due to a songs of praise we already had planned.  So, what do I do with it?  Last time I spoke on the unhelpfulness of war-imagery I got a load of verbals from a small number of folk at church (I vaguely recall blogging about it at the time and an alternative concept of PPE - personal protective equipment).  At one level the passage is really easy to work with, a nice shopping list of stuff, but in a violent world I need something more to say.


  • On the ordination of men...

    HT Julie

    This is funny but in inverse alas cited far too often...

    Ten reasons men are unsuited to pastoral ministry and therefore should not be ordained...

    10. A man’s place is in the army.

    9. The pastoral duties of men who have children might distract them from the responsibility of being a parent.

    8. The physique of men indicates that they are more suited to such tasks as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do ministerial tasks.

    7. Man was created before woman, obviously as a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

    6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. Their conduct at football and rugby games demonstrates this.

    5. Some men are handsome, and this will distract women worshipers.

    4. Pastors need to nurture their congregations. But this is not a traditional male role. Throughout history, women have been recognized as not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more fervently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

    3. Men are prone to violence. No really masculine man wants to settle disputes except by fighting about them. Thus they would be poor role models as well as dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

    2. The New Testament tells us that Jesus was betrayed by a man. His lack of faith and ensuing punishment remind us of the subordinated position that all men should take.

    1. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep sidewalks, repair the church roof, and perhaps even lead the song service on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the church

  • Greed and gratitude

    Offering to give away the stuff I don't want to take with me to Scotland has been interesting.  Requests have come in fairly thick and fairly fast, ranging from the very diffident 'if it's not too much bother and if you still have it might I be considered' to 'so-and-so passed on your list to me and here's my shopping list for a few hundred quid's worth of stuff.'  Interesting to see the attitudes of those making requests, and interesting to be alert to my own responses to them: from disgruntlement that the list had been passed outside the intended 'circle' without anyone asking me ("how dare they offer people MY stuff withut asking me?!") to humbling repsonses ("you've saved my life I've been searching for one of those for AGES").

    At the end of the day, I am encouraged that one or two HMF churches have been able to have bits and bobs for events they are planning - holiday at home in Jamaica in Nottinghamshire for example - some Brownies, GB and BB some craft equipment, a new AOG Sunday School some basics, a toddler group some cushions, a Methodist children's worker some basic stuff and a youth group some games stuff.  Seems like good Kingdom redistribution to me!