Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Archbishop and the Funeral

I’m having to do more thinking about funerals right now, of course. Dad’s demise is obviously imminent and while I won’t be taking a leading role I am certainly having to think about what it all means.
The Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne has prompted a few more thoughts: I think he’s so right and so wrong all at once.
Yes, “football club songs” may not always be appropriate. But celebrating the life of the deceased is a very important part of what we do at a funeral. The wishes of the family do need to be taken into account (They’re more important than the wishes of the deceased, actually).
Yes, the funeral should emphasise the “solemn nature of death”. I agree that many funerals treat the reality of death in a trivial fashion. However, I suspect that the Archbishop’s solution and mine would be considerably different.
Yes, for some people, the funeral should be “a sacred rite rather than a secular celebration”. Unfortunately, the Archbishop doesn’t seem to realise that his perceptions about the sacred and those of most people these days do not coincide.
Yes, there may be some situations in which political and romantic songs and nursery rhymes are not appropriate. But NOT because they might “intensify grief”. Grief, Archbishop, is a perfectly normal function of bereavement. So I feel any funeral should provide for grief to be expressed.
That’s why funerals I used to take always had two separate sections. In the first, we reflected on the reality of the death of this person whose life we celebrate. In the second, we looked to the gap that will now be in our lives as a result of this death and we attempted to establish a climate in which grief can be appropriately expressed and worked through.
I have the feeling that the Archbishop would prefer to do neither.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Some of the news coming through from Canterbury after last weekend's earthquake reminds me of the fundamental principle of local shared ministry. Here are stories of people and communities getting on with looking after themselves... They know that the cavalry isn't going to solve all their problems for them.

Small churches, going through the earth-shaking business of finding that paid ministry is no longer available to them, have discovered the same reality. LSM is a way in which they can get on looking after themselves and their mission.

All the same there's a whole raft of responses to Canterbury's efforts as the rest of the country commits itself to support and reconstruction. And if Air NZ can offer a thousand free flights, our parish, which has got all its funds caught up in paid ministry, should be able to provide some free nights of accomodation for those who can get up to our airport.

We'll look into it...

Monday, September 6, 2010

From the gorblimey to the disastrous

Friday night was huge. Our mystery dinner DEATH IN THE BAY was a terrific hit for the 90 or so dining in the Paihia Pacific Resort. The place rocked with laughter and applause as our amateur "suspects" entertained and challenged. Afterwards, Bev and I were absolutely exhausted. So we were still in bed next morning (watching a tape of THE VICAR OF DIBLEY!) when we were phoned about the Christchurch earthquake. How life's priorities are changed in a moment!

Like everyone else not in the quake zone, we watched TV on and off all day, wondering about the extensive damage and marvelling that there was no loss of life. Now we are told 500 buildings were damaged and restoring them and infrastructure will run to over two billion dollars.

As we are still wondering how much we should give for the Pakistan flood disaster it was heartening to hear Mayor Bob Parker saying that money was not the first priority for Christchurch. It seems that in this country we not only got our major earthquake in the middle of the night when people were not up and about but we have a national earthquake insurance scheme which will cover most household needs. Furthermore we have a sense of national responsibility which will stand by to help when the country's second largest city is so extensively damaged.

We're pleased to hear that there was virtually no damage in our grandson's flat in Sydenham. We think of those who are less fortunate and will be facing the consequences of this last weekend for months to come.

And we will do something significant for the desperate and neglected people of Pakistan...