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Friday, 13 May 2016

"Liturgical Material Assuring Us the Man With the Scythe Won't Have the Last Word"

A perfectly wonderful piece, from an Anglican perspective, on the immense value of the Christian funeral.
I don't know Stewart Dakers, but he is, as he so felicitously describes his state in life, "in the queue" when it comes to being the secondary locus of attention at a funeral, i.e. getting up there.
By virtue of my Church work, and even more so, of my enormous family, I have been to many more funerals than most people, it seems, going back to childhood. I am often shocked to know people quite middle-aged who tell me they have never been to one.
(My very earliest memory is of a dead man in a large, pretty box, in a tidy, sweet, if somewhat dark, stone house - the wake of our parish's pastor in his own rectory. It wasn't in any way, shape or form, scary, and I have sympathy for those whose experience, or lack thereof, leads to the dread I find many adults have of the dead and of funerals.)
Mr Dakers paints himself as a bingo-playing senior citizen, but he writes with an edge and wit many an urban hipster would envy.

And then, on top of that, he's simply right in his thought and opinion.
I attended a better funeral a couple of weeks earlier. It took place in a crematorium, whereas Enid’s affair had been in a real church. So in a sense the contrast was the greater. We sat in silence until the coffin was brought in with those wondrous ominous words
I am the Resurrection and the Life…
which set the tone for a sustained focus on the divinity of love and the hope of eternal life. Even without the accoutrements of a holy building, there was a feeling of belonging to a larger universe, a sense of the transformational.
In this secular age, sceptical of the numinous, the religious funeral demands from us the spiritual literacy which can surrender its cerebral convictions to an incredible hope. If that ingredient is removed, if every departure is presented as an event from which we are urged to move on, to draw a line under, then it does not take a psychiatrist or a theologian to identify a major source of contemporary angst.

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