"God and I get on fine, but the Church
and I haven't spoken for some time!"

Some years ago, whilst I was working as a Hospice Chaplain, I was asked to conduct a funeral ceremony for a patient whom I had come to know well. 'Alice' (not her real name) had said to me, shortly before she died, that "God and I get on fine, but the Church and I haven't spoken for some time!" She wanted a service that acknowledged her own spiritual position but which didn't necessarily follow the book, and she did not want it to take place in her local church - she felt that would not have been right either for her or her family. Almost inevitably the funeral she and I put together contained elements familiar to any regular church-goer - but also contained other secular readings, poetry and music as well as remembrances that were personal to her. The service was held at the local Crematorium where the superb music system allowed for a full appreciation of the music she had chosen and her ashes were subsequently scattered on the South Downs where elements of the service were repeated and once again her family were fully involved.

From that time on, I became interested in providing appropriate services for folk whose own spiritual journey wasn't necessarily within the structure of a church (of whatever denomination) but who nevertheless owned and valued an understanding of the spiritual element of their lives.

Spirituality can be seen as a way in which we understand what brings meaning, value and purpose to our lives, what it means to be human, perhaps to have place in a community – and a way of linking with 'the beyondness of things.'

For many people, life is so much more than simply breathing in and out - it involves a journey, both one's own journey and the journey shared with others. That journey is often difficult and can involve sadnesses, disappointments and regrets. It can involve experiences that change not just our lives but also our understanding of God - for example wartime experiences, or the loss of a child. Such experiences force us to ask questions which do not always support easy answers. They equally demand of us the characteristics of courage, endurance, tolerance, forgiveness.

The journey also blesses us with times of great happiness and joy, experiencing the beauty and wonder of creation, not just of the natural world, but also human creativity in music and poetry, in great works of art and building, and the legacy of history and time. We are blessed with companions, friends and lovers. Through them, particularly, we discover our own purpose in life. We are made fully human by the experience of Love, with all its joys and sacrifices.

The only real resource we have to help us on our own journey is that same gift of Love. It is truly that force which can change the world, especially our own world. It is that force of love which we could understand as being the expression of God. And it is that which we celebrate when we meet together to say farewell to those whose own journeys of life are ended.

About the service

"I really don't think I could have coped
with a deep Holy do, but you were right
up my mum's street."

"Your mixture of humour, thoughtful prose and absolute
compassion was a joy in our time of sadness. Thank
you from the bottom of our hearts - this was certainly a
celebration of a wonderful life."
J & T, Shoreham.