Last Saturday, I had the privilege of sharing in ‘A Service Celebrating Life and Lives Lived’ at All Saints, Minstead in the New Forest. The village church was filled with light and colour as people from all over the area met together at the conclusion of two community events designed to dovetail together.
All Saints Church in Minstead celebrated ‘Life and Lives Lived’ at the same time, with felt angel making, a prayer tree, time to think and talk about the Christian view of life and death over cake and tea, and a vivid illustration of how a school had engaged with patients at a local hospice to explore ideas surrounding death and dying.
The service that concluded both the events was led by Revd Kate Wilson, who as well as being vicar of a neighbouring parish is part-time chaplain at Oakhaven Hospice, where, nearly 17 years ago, my mother died. Kate had worked with volunteers at the hospice, Pennington Junior School, a student at Brockenhurst College, and the residents at the hospice to create a wonderful Egyptian sarcophagus which was on display along with many photo’s of all the other activities involved in their project day. Reading and seeing the details of young children working with people who were dying to create things of beauty like Egyptian bookmarks, whilst also talking about the fears of all about the idea of dying, was actually very moving.
The service itself was also very moving, as it drew together people of all faiths and none, with the Gospel message being drawn out through non-scriptural readings. With Revd Wilson’s permission I am outlining below roughly what material was used and the order this very informal service took; what she described as “probably what they call a ‘fresh expression’ of church.
- Reading: The gate of the year by Minnie Louise Haskins
- Opening Prayer – acknowledging God’s creation, life, love, and death as part of if it all
- Deep Peace, sung acapela by members of the ‘Kitchen Sync’, a group of singers from the Minstead area
- Reading: “Confession for the Healing of Family Stories” from ‘Wild Spirit of the Living God – prayer poems for the journey’ by Revd Dr Russ Parker of Acorn Christian Healing Foundation
- Community Singing of “A River Of Birds” led by Fabian Lochner of the New Forest Community Choir
- Reading: “Love suffers” a reflection from Nicholas Wolterstorff’s ‘Lament for a Son’
- Time of reflection: Revd Kathy reflected on joy and sorrow being opposite sides of the same coin, then read out the names of those who were being particularly remembered at this time, before inviting all to come forward and light a candle and offer a silent thought or prayer for those they were remembering (during which the Taize chant ‘Oh Lord hear my prayer’ was played). After this she spoke of faith bringing light into the darkness of the world, and of memory boxes being an evocative way of meeting the needs of our inner spirituality.
- Story: Storyteller Taprisha told her own moving story of a series of bereavements and the animals that were associated with each.
- “I’ve decided to be happy” was the concluding song by ‘Kitchen Sync’ before a