I travelled back from the crematorium with Stephen, one of our local undertakers. Reflecting on funeral services and ceremonies, Stephen expressed concern that there were an increasing number of people where there was nothing by way of ceremony or rite of passage whereby people might find an opportunity to express their grief and perhaps find some sense of closure.
Maybe the churches are partly to blame, in our “one size fits all” approach we have probably alienated people, maybe driven away those who are at the most vulnerable point in their lives.
I read a piece this evening by Peter Cruchley-Jones, a United Reformed Church minister working on a big housing estate in Cardiff:
I came home from taking a church group on retreat to find a large group of young people huddled by a bus shelter in pouring rain, all with candles and flowers. I drove past about half an hour later, having found out that the night before a fifteen-year-old girl had been run over there and killed by someone driving recklessly in a stolen car. I stopped and joined them; there were about thirty young people, none older than sixteen. There were no adults apart from me. They all had candles and had laid flowers and had written tributes to Sian all over the bus shelter. I listened to a few of them and looked at the flowers. I even told them what I was (a vicar). They told me some of them had prayed, but mostly they were just being there where it happened. One of my churches is about two hundred to three hundred metres down the road from that bus stop. I considered opening it for them. But they needed to be at this spot. They didn’t need the church, and though they were glad I’d come and joined them, they didn’t really need me. So I left after about half an hour. They were there for three nights running, often in the rain. But they kept vigil and they sought light for the dark.
I reflected on that piece and wondered if there was space in my understanding of the Church for such “ceremonies” by groups of young people, and if young people have to create their own ceremonies and keep their own vigils, (as I have seen here when road accidents have taken place), how has the Church, of which I am part, failed them?