The Revd Canon Thomas Woodhouse has supported Church of England Life Events with consultancy through its Funerals Working Group for a number of years, and has particular experience around grief in communities. Part of his 20 years as a parish priest was spent at (Royal) Wootton Bassett, when he found himself standing beside people of all faiths and none on the High Street as the bodies of men and women were repatriated from Iraq and Afghanistan to the UK. He offers this reflection on bereavement ministry during the UK Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.
This is an extraordinary time and you will need to draw on your experiences of more ordinary times to inform our ministry today! Draw from the wells of your own experience, think about times when you were tested, be confident that you already have the tools necessary for the task in hand.
Rejoice in your liturgical framework, whatever it is, it will help you not to be carried away by emotion, excitement or adrenalin. Rely on the patterns in the church’s year, you already know the rhythms so do not reinvent the wheel.
As a Minister of Religion you share your community’s journey. Listen to their stories and do not be afraid to theologically interpret these stories or offer reflections from your own personal faith journey when relevant.
You will be holding the tensions and emotions of many people, especially people not able to attend a funeral. Find time to be available for people on the phone or via a social media platform, remember that being is never wasteful, rather, it is life-giving and restorative.
You will need to balance the centredness and holiness of your calling to be a Minister at prayer with the need for action! Balancing the monastic rhythm of daily prayer with the apostolic ministry of doing is something to continue working through – even now.
With this endeavour comes the confidence to both hold all who come your way, but also to speak into their situations. The experience will be challenging, however, it will give you fresh insights and renewed energy to ‘keep on keeping on’.
In quietness and in trust shall be your strength. Make sure you rest. Give yourself space to be attentive to the voice of God, so that you can articulate that voice. Be confident because you have something to contribute.