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Rector's monthly letter

Funerals

Last month I wrote about weddings, but this month I find myself moved to write instead about funerals. I find it curious that my attitude towards funerals tends to be sharply at odds with most other people’s. While I see them as an everyday feature of daily life, most of the people I speak to about them consider their very existence to problematic. “I have a funeral” often elicits the response “O dear, I am sorry”. Really – it is my job! Don’t be sorry!

I mention funerals because, curiously, the last couple of months I have been busier with funerals than since I first arrived here in the Test Valley. Funerals always used to come in a reasonably steady stream, with a post-Christmas rush and a slight up-tick during the winter. However, in these Covid-times, funerals are highly seasonal, with a large workload during times of widespread disease and respite as the NHS is again able to cope with the situation, and the hospitals return to normal. However, I cannot account for the current rush to the grave here in the Test Valley.

Monday 17th May saw a lifting of the restrictions on the number of people that can attend a funeral, although venues still need to ensure distancing. Not enabling grieving families to attend the funeral of a loved one has been a particularly challenging aspect of the pandemic, and has further separated the reality of death from the experience of wider society. Allowing more people to experience a funeral and so reflect on the one thing that is a truly universal human experience can only be a positive.

Along with the promise that we will all face death, is also the promise that we can all hold to the hope of sharing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For the Christian, although death is a cause of sadness, it not an ending but a beginning, and not a source of dread but of hope. At a time when we have all lost so much in the past year, we can find comfort in that promise new life in Christ.

Revd Philip Bowden, Rector