I try and avoid blogging too much about specific ministry - all too personal and real - but this week had two wonderfully contrasting activities. The jargon 'occasional offices' doesn't do justice to baptisms, weddings or (as in this case) funerals. And as a clerge in England, where you do loads of funerals, mainly for people you've never met, I would try and not go on about them. Get a few C of E vicars together and they start swapping funeral stories...
But up here, in the SEC (my bit anyway) it's different.
So this week, with two funerals, is unusual for me now. But the contrasts are worth reflecting upon.
Both services for people I've known, both died from cancer, both a little on the young-ish side.
Funeral 1: Down south. A colleague and friend from a few years ago, with shared experience of ship designing. I last saw him maybe seven or eight years ago. The comedy moment! The hearse lost a tyre on the way to the crem, which (from what the widow said) then went on fire! (the tyre, not the crem) Moving on swiftly. Standing room only in the crem for the 30 minute slot (20 minute service) - standard timings for my curacy. A busy time at the crem, they said - 11 services in the place that day. The deceased lived about 15 minutes from the crem, the reception was a similar distance away (in his lodge). I used a Scottish liturgy (give or take) and we sang hymns and listened to poems and Enya.
Funeral 2: Up here. A member of the small, now dormant, dependent congregation. I last saw her two weeks before, just before I went on holiday, a week before she died. Family only - four adults and 2 children aged 6 and 8. Changed most of the words in my little book to ones that are easier to understand (and not just for the kids!). Also a busy time at the crem, they said - a funeral every day that week! The journey was about 90 minutes each way: up the 'Rest-and-be-Thankful' and down Loch Lomondside from Dunoon to the crem. I went in the hearse and had a good chat there and back with the undertakers. The hearse did not go on fire. No idea how long the crem slot was - all day, I suppose - but we were in and out in 15 minutes. No music at all - just as the family wanted it.
And overall - the same sense of loss, of hope, of saying goodbye as electrically-operated curtains whirred closed. The sense (for me) of knowing the faces that were lying still in the coffins, and wondering if the gospel had been adequately preached.
And now - the second wedding of the week tomorrow. I wonder what will happen there...