David recently posted on a Sunday of very contrasting services and I thought I’d chip in my tuppenceworth.

The morning service was largely done by Buskit, a charity group from Grangemouth High School who take humanitarian aid across to children in Belarus. The three young people were very confident and spoke eloquently of their experiences. One even took the children’s address – a daunting enough task even for the experienced. Mind you, with some of the activities they were leading in Belarus, they’ve all got good experience in communicating with groups of children.

I think that the thing that struck me most was how much they said they had been affected by their experience. It was a very genuine sense of personal change that they communicated – not just a simple ‘yeah, it was meaningful’, but a very deep understanding that they had learned much form their trip. Schools often speak of learning lessons ‘for life’. Well, it’d be difficult to get a more effective teaching experience than the one the Buskit group get. I don’t know if there is any Christian ‘drive’ within the group, but you’d be hard pushed to find a better example of love and care for others.

Which brings me to the evening service – a very different example of concern for others. At this time of the year, KHR have a ‘bereavement service’ where those in the parish and the congregation who have experienced a bereavement are invited along to a service of remembrance. It’s very thoughtfully put together with comforting words of poetry, prose and scripture on the order of service, on cards in the pews and in the read reflections of the service. The act of remembrance is to drop a pebble into a bowl of water (for those who wish to come forward), using the action to symbolise a letting go, or a remembering of the ‘ripples’ caused in life, or whatever else may come to mind. It’s a deeply affecting time and very emotional. David is on hand with a comforting hug or a warm handshake and words of blessing.

What struck me was how busy the service was. It’s obviously something that is very meaningful for those who are there and is very much appreciated by them. I can be a bit of a sceptic when it comes to symbolic actions, which may sound odd coming from someone who has put together labyrinths, although perhaps it would be fairer to say that the symbolism needs to be ‘sound’. It can be too easy to come up with something that is a bit ‘tacky’ and is too open to misinterpretation. That’s most definitely not the case here, where the liturgy for this service works very well (although quite how it might be taken if the deceased had drowned is another matter).

The day of contrasts comes, in my opinion, in the direction they take. The morning is one of looking outwards to others and the evening is looking inward to our own needs (or far and near as David termed it). The good thing about the ‘inward-looking’ part was that it wasn’t done simply as a inwardly focused experience, rather it was about bringing Christ into our inner life to help heal hurts. The outward, of course, was about ‘being’ Christ to the world. A reminder that we are to look after ourselves as well as one another. “Love your neighbour as yourself” is very difficult when we ourselves are broken and in need. And, this is true not just of bereavement, but in many things. When we feel the love of Christ for us, as we are; when we feel His acceptance of us, as we are; when we can know the riches we share in Him; we can learn something of sharing that with others in their need, whether it is a sick child in Belarus or a grieving relative close to home.

One response to “Contrasts”

  1. Hi John.
    Thanks for your obeservations. I hadn’t considered the ‘drowning’ aspect, but would probably want to have the service remain as is. The people who would be affected by the manner of death would have to be well prepared by me (or who ever leads) so that they were aware of what would face them at the front of the church.
    It is always emotional. I inherited the service, and my predecessor stayed behind the table throughout. Something I could not bring myself to do. My action was appreciaed that night and each year since, although it snuck under my radar this time because of a couple of personal bereavements.

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