I was at college a couple of weekends ago. The theme of the weekend was 'Ministry to the Dying and Bereaved'....or as I put it 'Death and Dying'. I wasn't particularly looking forward to the weekend. Not for any particular reason. I hadn't had a bereavement recently and so there wasn't, as far as I was aware, anything that could 'come out'. The only reason for emotion would be that it was the last weekend of the year for my year group, and the last weekend before we next meet in October. A long time to be away from friends.
I flew in a little late, having been in France on a course, so I missed much of the opening worship. The weekend was good. It was led with particular sensitivity and my fellow students were given space to think and pray and wander off if so desired. A friend and I had also decided to organise a party, being our last weekend and the last weekend of one of our dear tutors as he set off on the road to retirement - we had a small gift for him that we wanted to present.
The party was a corker. We let our hair down and danced. It wasn't especially late, but as friends we talked, partied and danced. Being a warm evening we even took the music outside onto the quad and danced on the grass, ipods being examined for tracks to continue dancing to. A truly wonderful evening to end our second year. And special as everyone mucked in to make it what it was. A big thank you to my co-conspirator, Angi with whom it wouldn't have morphed into what it did!
Back to the reason for this blog....and the weekend. On Sunday morning our worship took the form of a 'Wordless Eucharist'. A number of us had heard of its reputation. This was going to be emotional. But no one really knew what to expect. I went with an open mind. Being a contemplative sort of chap, I thought it would be good and also knowing the celebrant, I had high expectations.
We entered to the music of the film Amelie. It was carnival like. Not really what I would call meditative. However, it was right, just right. we sat in the room in a circle and waited......I knelt on the floor for a moment to gather my thoughts, with good friends either side of me. It was going to be a good end to the weekend.
What happened next, I really can't explain. I started to think of my (maternal) grandfather. He was a parish priest whose life was cut short by a brain tumour. His last parish was just outside Norwich in Thorpe St Andrew. He died when I was 2 or 3. However, I have always felt close to him, an affinity with him. I just can't explain it, but I can imagine him and picture him. I am very fond of my grandfather.
I started to cry. Properly cry. It was OK. I was in a 'safe' place. Amongst friends who cared. And I didn't really stop. In my prayers I questioned why he was taken away at, what is today, such a young age. Why was the church deprived of him? Why was I deprived of him? Why couldn't he be around today to see where I was going and be proud of me?
After 38 or so years I was grieving the death of my grandfather.
I can't do justice to the worship in words so I won't even try. It was wonderful and fulfilling. During the service tissues were shared, hands placed on shoulders, hugs exchanged and it was good. At the end we joined together via our little fingers and were led out into the sunshine.
The story continues on the day after the weekend. I was speaking with my mother who had been at her aunt's birthday celebrations (my grandfather's sister). She had visited the grave of my grandfather and grandmother. Fresh roses lay on his grave. And then on the Sunday had worshiped at Thorpe at a similar time I was worshipping. I think knowing this bought a tear to both my and my mother's eyes.
I have talked about this experience with college friends. And aside from anything else, after two years on STETS, I can say with certainty that I thank God for my friends at college, the support they have given and continue to give. They have much to give in their ministries. The church will be a richer place.