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Thought 42 - January 17th 2021

I have the privilege of taking a Funeral Service on Tuesday for a friend of a friend. I don't know the lady which makes it a little difficult, plus I can't call at the house and speak to her husband. However the family have been great and we have had lots of phone calls and emails. I have taken Funeral services in the past and always feel very honoured to be asked to officiate.

This is such an important and sad and difficult time for those who are left behind and looking for a way of remembering their loved one and ensuring they are doing all they can to honour the memory of the deceased person.

That is why I feel that if people want a Christian funeral service whether they are church goers or not,we know they have their needs met. I am privileged to share my faith and hopefully by doing so, to hep them to believe that death isn't the end, but is the beginning of a new life.

However I always feel some apprehension that I get it right!!

I suppose for our Ministers, funerals are part of their ministry and in some cases a regular occurrence. I know that I have always been very comforted when I have attended a funeral conducted by our ministers over the years.

I know quite a few people are opting for Humanist funerals now, but I still feel that we have much to offer at this time in people's lives.

People look to the church for Baptisms, maybe not as many as we used to have coming to church for this ceremony. Again, I have had the joy of baptising children and it is a wonderful experience being able to offer this special ceremony at the start of life and to thank God for the gift of that child. Of course there is the Baptism by Total Immersion practice in other denominations, especially in the Baptist church, which I have only ever witnessed on video. It seems important for people who might never go to church to be there for this special time. I hope we are always glad to welcome families regardless of whether they come to church, or whether we will see them again. It is my personal view we should never turn people away.

The third 'special' church time for people is marriage, although I think fewer people are choosing a Christian celebration, I can't remember the last wedding we had at our church. I feel this is sad as our faith has much to offer on marriage. I always hope that people who have been married previously are never turned away by our churches, anyone can make a mistake and we do preach a message of forgiveness.

I remember our friend who was a Vicar in Liverpool, telling us that his church was never very well attended for Sunday worship, but for baptisms and funerals the place was crowded! When there was a chance the church may have been closed many people objected as in their special times their church was so important to them.

I know that at the moment our churches are closed for worship, but that funerals can still take place. As Rev Sue reminded us at the start of the first Lock Down we are the 'Church without walls' we have surely something special to offer even if we are not directly involved with any of the ceremonies I have talked about. In these troubled times, people are looking for answers, for hope and reassurance, and again we are limited to what we can do, we can't visit people and maybe the only thing we can do is to ensure that the messages we share in whatever way we share them, show that we, the Church, have something of relevance to offer to people at all times of their lives.

I have chosen for today's readings; the message of reassurance that Jesus gives in John ch 14 v 1-4 and I am also hoping you will read again the 23rd Psalm. Both these passages, I believe, offer so much comfort and are at the heart of our faith.

The hymn I have chosen is; 'When I needed a neighbour were you there?'  It is in 'STF' 256. At all times, but especially now, we as God's people are here to be neighbours and to offer that hope and support.

Keep safe and keep praying.

Dave Elliott

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