Family life

Officiating at four funerals this week has forced me to think about families. Families in shock, families grieving, families thankful that there is no more suffering, families already torn apart, families at breaking point, families united and divided. 

It’s all well and good saying that we’ll all be re-united in God’s perfect love for all eternity. There’s quite a lot of living to be done before that. There will be rows, recriminations, blame, guilt, and, I trust, listening, talking, hugs, love, reconciliation. Not all families go through all of these things, but lots do.

You can tell where I’m going with this, can’t you? Yes, back to Christians again. We’ve been acting like a family for two thousand years, we’re not about to stop now. Taking the long view, this is what we do. It’s the human face of church. But it’s frightening watching a family row. Neighbours get worried by the shouting. Vulnerable family members may be terrified, and deeply upset. The ones shouting most loudly tend not to realise the effect they have on other people (and I write as one who can shout very loudly when I put my mind to it).  

So where does that leave the good old Church of England? We gave out post it notes for people to write their thoughts and feelings during services on Sunday. This remarkably unscientific and probably skewed “poll” (noting that our Benefice has a male vicar, with men and women in the ordained and lay licensed ministry team) told us that around 3% of our Sunday congregations don’t positively support women bishops.  The rest do. These are the people who have been standing silent by the walls watching the vitriolic rows in the middle of the room. These are the bewildered folk who don’t get what all the fuss is about. In our benefice, they are the huge majority. 

That doesn’t mean the minority should be ignored – although our 3% all received communion consecrated by a woman. The minority should be listened to, quietly, with grace and respect. This is their church too. But I need to say, clearly, and without ambiguity – the Church of England should not feel the need to protect anyone legally from my ministry. The Church of England should expect me to be sensitive to those who welcome my “Claire-shaped” ministry, and to those who don’t. It should expect the same sensitivity of Rev’ds Andrew, Catherine,  David, Frances, John, Margaret, Paul, Rachel, Simon, and Tess, too. But it really shouldn’t ordain people if it seriously believes that the population at large requires legal protection from their ministries.    

2 responses to “Family life

  1. Thanks for saying what needed saying.

    Just about the funerals. I went to a local church this morning. Looking at the Pew sheet, the Vicar, Jane, had five funerals, one each day this week. And we prayed for two more who had died in the meantime.

    It seems that the Winter death increase is coming early – and people just don't realise the service that their local church and ministry teams provide on these occasions.

    I am in awe of those who carry out funeral ministry, because it is one of the most demanding of ministries that I can think off. I've had to deal with death and funerals and bereaved families in a military context, and know how much it drained me at the time, I can't imagine how Clergy cope with so many, so often, particularly in the winter.

    All I can say is be kind to yourself and I hope that those around you are equally kind.

    [*]for you.

  2. Thank you so much for your care and concern, much appreciated. This week is unusual, my Training Incumbent is away, so these funerals have not been shared as they would have been if he were around. Next week I have a study week, so no weekday services at all unless I choose to attend.

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