A Reflection for All Saints from our Team Rector, Reverend Peter Reiss

Parish Memorial Service
Sunday 30th October, 6pm, Christ Church Join us for this special service as we remember before God those whom we have loved, who have died and are still treasured in our hearts.
Please add any particular names you would like read out to the list at the back of church or let us know via email to revhannah@walmsleyparish.org

At All Saints / All Souls, we remember those whom we have loved but whose earthly lives are over; for me I remember my father, who died at 94, earlier this month, after a long life, mostly in good health, but in these last months with his energy, capacities and strength failing. I remember too those for whom our churches have hosted funerals, those who have asked us to inter the ashes of loved ones, and those for whom we have conducted funerals at the Crematorium.

For some death has come tragically, heart-rendingly early. Some families would dearly wish that their loved one had reached 94. For some, death has been sudden and unexpected – no chance for conversations, thank you, or preparing ourselves. For some, death has come only after a time of suffering and pain, where we have felt helpless, and we wish the person might have been spared the pain and distress..
Some of us today remember a recent death, and some of us are drawn to remember special people, even though they died many years ago – they are still precious and special to us.

We will be gathered in the church as a community of those who remember and grieve; for some the grief is still a raw pain, for others it is a void, for others it is the memory of someone who was precious. For some, sadly, regret is greater than joy, and this may be for many reasons – life does not always “end” where we want it to.

The Christian Church made this the season of All Saints partly because the early bishops like Alcuin, wanted to “christianise” the existing pagan festival of Samhain, held at this time of year, and when it was believed the gap between the living and the dead was a bit thinner, and so the living might be able to get in touch with loved ones. We no longer celebrate Samhain, but we do long to feel connected to loved ones, and we wonder how we can keep their memory alive, possibly even their presence with us in some way. The human desire to remain connected is very strong.
Tucked away in the Apostles’ Creed – the statement of faith for the church – is the line

I believe in .. the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting

For the Christian there is an unbreakable communion in God, with others both across space and across time. This is rooted in the mercy of God, not something we can assume, but equally something we can be sure of, if that is not contradictory. For us, All Saints is a time to be reminded of this glorious truth or set of truths – God’s promise and gift to us is forgiveness, resurrection and everlasting life.

This is not obvious, nor easy – we are faced with the apparent ultimate end in death; in this life we will see them no more. The loss of a loved one is more like an amputation than an illness; we can learn to live without the limb, but the more significant the amputation, the harder it is.

Autumn reminds us that the vigour of summer, the trees full of leaves and fruit, passes, though we know that spring will come. Autumn also can be that time of storms, when large branches, even whole trees come crashing down; they will not suddenly regrow in the spring, though remarkably new growth will appear. Can we take the natural cycle of the seasons and use it to give us confidence that the Creator has invested life in this planet, and even more so in us, so that whether we crash early, or whether our mortal life ends after many years, the essence of our life is not over or destroyed. It is not a complete analogy but it may be a pointer.

In Christ all is made new; in Christ we are born again, born anew, given a new life, born into a new life where our old and tired and battered bodies are in some way transformed completely, or is it that we get a new body – some of this is rightly a mystery that we only glimpse; and at All Saints, and on Sunday we will celebrate that truth, but knowing that for many the pain and loss of separation is still very real and raw. Grief is real but so too is hope.

… and a personal message of thanks

Thank you to all who have sent cards and condolences to me and the family, on the death of my father. Dad was 94 heading to 95 and had been becoming more frail in recent months. We are grateful that he died in peace and at home, and has had family with him. He was a man of deep faith, and trusted in the mercy of God.

We know there are many who grieve, where the death of their loved one was in much less peaceful circumstances, and we know that we have been blessed in many ways, even as we come to terms with our loss. Peter