I’ve been thinking about ‘endings’ today. In part this has been prompted by taking two funerals, but that’s not really the sort of ending I have in mind. I’ve also had a few hospital visits and it is with these, or rather, one in particular, that I have been pondering the issue of ‘endings’.

In this case, the issue is of bringing a visit to an end. The person I visited obviously had short-term memory problems. We circled round the very same conversation several times. Every time I got to point where I thought it was appropriate to take my leave, a ‘new’ conversation started up. I finally grabbed my chance when I was asked a new question about what else I had to do that day. The other visits had more ‘natural’ conversations and were easier to guide to a conclusion. Maybe I just need to develop a slightly more robust disengagement strategy.

The funerals were, of course, endings as well, but there were particular thought-provoking issues there too. Again, in bringing them to a close. At the recent probationers’ conference there was some debate over the appropriateness of the we/you language choice in benedictions. There were some suggestions that probationers still shouldn’t be using ‘you’-oriented blessings. I’m not convinced there is a theological, ecclesiological or ontological argument to justify this. Nevertheless, it came to mind at both funerals, because I did not know the deceased or any of the families and so including myself seemed inappropriate.

My final reflection on endings was associated with this morning’s funeral. It was in the church and then on to the cemetery. In my head the ‘conclusion’ of the service is at the cemetery and so that is where the benediction should be said. But it occurred to me that many in the church did not go on to the cemetery and so were excluded from that blessing. Would it have been inappropriate to do it twice? I felt the church part was somehow left ‘incomplete’ because of it, but then the ‘completion’ really comes afterwards. I’d be interested in the opinion of any liturgists out there.

And so, having burbled on about endings, here endeth this blog entry.

7 responses to “Endings”

  1. Re the funeral: I cannot see anything wrong in ending with a blessing at both – they serve different functions. The service in the Church is the funeral thanksgiving service and at the cemetery a committal. Last weekend we had a Thanksgiving in Church on the Friday, but the committal at the Crem on the Monday. A blessing was said at both. Does time proximity make a difference? I can’t see that it does.
    I still use “us” and will do until my ordination. I am not the minister bringing God’s blessing to the congregation, but in some way still part of the laity. It feels as if I am usurping the role of the minister. Again, it relates to function. There could be a whole debate about this!

  2. It’s a matter of common sense, I think. Each service is an entitry in its own right and therefore should have a blessing to finish with. You could use different benedictions as a way round it. As for the ‘you’/’us’ language. Go with what you feel is appropriate.
    I can readily identify with the ‘escape strategy’ for visits. There are some where you are told that your audience with the visitee is over, and others that go on loke an old-fsahioned presbyterian sermon, (for ever and ever). It’s a case, once again, of trying to judge the right moment. I don’t get it right even now. I’m still learning !

  3. The ecclesiological argument is that blessing belongs to those ordained to word and sacrament; although I’ve never heard of anyone being disciplined for using “you” even though they may not be ordained.

  4. Funerals – I do a blessing at both for reasons already mentioned and I didn’t use ‘you’ until I was ordained. However in the prayers (whether I knew the person or not) I use ‘we’ and ‘us’. (in the same way I would during any service of worship) and because it is warmer and less formal – I don’t want to seem detached. The blessing serves a different function.
    Disengagement from pastoral visits never seems to get any easier… I am not good at finishing up. And as David says, every visit is different and you have to judge the moment. I nearly always offer a prayer at the end of the visit – unless it seems inappropriate (and in hospital situation it is often impossible!!). But in offering a prayer I am always prepared for refusal – not everyone wants a prayer and I make clear it is optional if they seem unsure.
    Hope you are enjoying the ‘probation experience’ 🙂

  5. Thanks for all the comments.

    Having thought through it some more I think I’d agree that a blessing/benediction at the end of the church (or, indeed, any ‘first-half’ venue) part of a funeral service would be appropriate and it’ll find its way into my funeral liturgy now.

    @Angus, I think I’d need to tease that one out some more before I was entirely happy with it. I understand and largely agree with the ‘status’ of being ordained. I’m not convinced we need to be ordained to give a blessing to others. After all, it’s not because we are anything ‘special’ (regardless of ‘status’) that we can pronounce a blessing – we are, are we not, simply speaking God’s blessing through our words. Is it any different from conveying a ‘blessing’ through the words of a sermon? And we don’t insist on ordination to word and sacrament for that. Actually, that’s a point – are readers and deacons encouraged to use the ‘we’ or ‘you’ form?

    As for visits – thanks for the advice. maybe I just need to be less of a blether as well. I will offer a prayer if I feel it is appropriate in the circumstances, even though it can be a bit disconcerting in somewhere like a busy hospital ward.

  6. The prayer thing… I was taken to task recently for not offering a prayer. This is/was my normal practice after being told early in my ministry that I could pray if I felt it would do ME some good. If asked, I am happy to comply, but after a forthright member took me to task, I will review this on a visit to visit basis.

  7. Hi ‘us’ and ‘you’ restriction within the CoS appears to be a question of ‘power’ to many (not necessary me). At the end of the day one is there leading the service and the prayers, and giving the benediction with a mandate for that ministry (from the congregation and the higher authority [whatever that might be]- what other privilege is there needed to bless the people?). I never heard or read a good and satisfactory explanation of why only the ordained should use ‘you’ as those are biblical words written by Paul – I do prefer the inclusive ‘we’ as this formulation is also biblical.

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