“… In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.” Words from a familiar hymn to most of us, and the hymn which I believe to most strongly communicate our resurrection faith. Not, in fact, to be restricted to funeral services but actually any occasion when we wish to sing of our hope through death in God’s eternal love and power for us. (See Hymn AMR 27).
In our African context we are richly blessed in many different cultural and domestic approaches to death. It is part of the richness we enjoy. There seems to be particular variation in how we view the body of the deceased person at the time of death and leading up to the funeral. For some people the body is quite rightly taken care of by the funeral director and is only brought out for the funeral service. For others it is important that great ceremony is made of the body being brought home the night before the funeral, and prayer and liturgy focussing around that arrival and through the night form an important preparation for the funeral service proper. Yet others take great comfort in the body of the deceased person being received into church the night before the funeral service where it can “rest in state” in the Holy Place, the place where, in life, the deceased person has come close to God and been united to Christ in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
All of these different approaches in fact are represented in the long history of Christianity. But from very early times the night before the funeral has been seen as a pastorally and emotionally special, significant and sensitive time. The fact that death touches us all in different ways simply reinforces the fact that there needs to be a great variety of approach when it comes to observing this special time.
Here at the Cathedral all the Clergy are committed to servicing the special, unique and individual needs of families who are bereaved. There is certainly not a case of “one size fits all” and we are all committed to coming close to the family and discussing their particular and special needs to observe the parting of their dear ones and celebrating our common faith in Christ’s victory over sin and death and opening up the way to eternity for us all.
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
* TO LISTEN TO THE SERMON by the Dean, the Very Revd Fr Simon Aiken, 16 January 2011, go to the BLOG ARCHIVE (to the right of your screen) and click on "January" and then select (click again on) "Sermon by the Dean..."
A note in Commemoration of Mother Cecile of Grahamstown (1906)
Cecile Isherwood, born in
England in 1861, went to to work in the Diocese of Grahamstown in 1883. At the request of the Bishop, Allan Becher Webb, she founded a sisterhood, The Community of The Resurrection of Our Lord. Its focus was education and social work. Mother Cecile led this community until her death, at the early age of forty-four, on 20 February 1906. She had also founded a training college for teachers, schools, orphanages and missions. South Africa
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