It has been a busy week here, and today has finally slowed down. There have been two coffee mornings (yes, I know the Vicar of Dibley would consider me a rank amateur). The second was at our local care home, a call it has taken me far too long to make, and I not only met lots of the residents, but also had a chat with the manager and a couple of her team. So far, so relaxed and informal.
This afternoon there was a village funeral to conduct. I tend to categorise formality of funerals by the colour of my clerical shirt, most of which doesn’t show. This was a black shirt funeral.
In the late afternoon, I met with a family as we dedicated a tree to the memory of one of their own. The circumstances of death and funeral had been complicated, and there was hurt to be healed. We had met casually before, but today, I put my cassock back on. It seemed important to do this dedication for this family with the formality I would attach to a funeral.
We all gathered, from age 1 to age “retired for a while now” and we said prayers. The tree was dedicated, some water was blessed to water it, and the 1 year old added another watering can full. It wasn’t formal of itself, but it was treated seriously.
It seems to me that one of the most important things I can do as a parish priest is to take people seriously, especially where pain and grief are concerned. To put on a cassock takes seconds, but it can say “I have heard your story”. To pray together takes minutes, but it says “you matter and we can share this with a God who cares”. Paying attention might take a little concentration, but the rewards are rich.