What an interesting and varied funeral-related day it has been. I've done a service in church, a service in the crematorium, another service in a rain soaked cemetery a memorial service, arranged two more funerals, given one away and had a much loved church member die (the second in less than a week).
Anyone who knows me also knows just how much I love funerals- for I regard them as one of the best bits of the clerical role a along with evangelism, apologetics, seeing people make a decision for Christ, preaching, studying, making music, being pastoral, and making time with God in prayer and reflection (which is a very special place I get to visit far too rarely).
So today I climb out of bed and having written my final bits of paper for the services, I read them through so that everything is fresh in my memory so I don't need to look at the paper when speaking at the deceased. This is a small and simple step but I have to say I struggle with people reading stuff (usually in a wooden manner) about the deceased. This, along with getting names and material facts wrong, is a sin that's up there with running over allotted time in the crem'
I almost always burn a back up CD of the music to be played in the service - it's part of the OCD funeral person I have become - and this is something that has served me and the people I'm doing the funeral for extremely well as the number of times a CD doesn't play is now in excess of 10%.
There are a number of reasons for doing a backup CD:
i. It means that there is a back up system in place should things go wrongs,
ii. It means that I have a CD at the service whose quality and ability to play is assured,
iii. If the people for whom I am doing the service need help, then I have provided it by producing the CD for them - this ticks box i. and ii. and adds a little more support to the bereaved as it takes pressure off them and resolves some of my concerns (I still burn two CDs though).
So today, having finished with stuff by 02:00 and being just a tad tired after a riotous 17hr day, for some reason, I didn't burn a CD. Arriving at the church for the first service I find that the CD is nowhere to be seen - so I jump in the car, pop home and burn one for them. Arriving back we get started and as we process in the verger stands at the nave and says / mouthes / sort of half shouts, "It won't play!" (I swear I hear the word Gromit at the end, but who knows I could just be going a bit bonkers!!).
Undeterred we carry on and I do the beginning of the service and as the congregation sing the first hymn I pop and have a try. Nope, the same CD that played in the car on my return journey to the church is not playing - the CD player has given up the ghost - on to plan B.
As the congregation continue to sing (thank You Lord for long hymns) I swiftly visit the iTunes Store and purchase the tracks required for the rest of the service. After this the service potters along the well worn tracks of funeral with nary a hitch, although playing the first of the reflection pieces by plonking my iPhone on the microphone did cause more than a few smiles from some of the assembled folk. And as we left, microphone pointing to iPhone, I thanked God for the ability to problem solve, smile and possess technology.
So that was an interesting start to the day and the trip to the crematorium, for a man I cared about and have much respect, was the complete opposite experience as it was one of those where the rhythm turned a potentially leaden service into pure gold.
The visit to the cemetery, in torrential rain (thank God for cloaks) was a pretty long drawn out affair and many of those who arrived did so in dribs and drabs and this meant some of us had been gathered for almost twenty-five minutes. That's sure to see me with a cold by the time we hit next week!!
But a straightforward and steady service, as I walked from the grave whilst, a la Beatles, no one might have been saved, they were certainly shown the Saviour :-)
Memorial services are always a little challenging because there is a danger that as the service progresses we will introduce to the assembled masses a new deity, The balance between pointing to God, doing the deceased justice, telling the stories, comforting the bereaved and celebrating a life lived is delicate and precise. The blessing of having my own PA and microphones and other kit means that I can control and manage the talk and technical side - like burning CDs - another OCD belt and braces element.
But the memorial went well. It had God and the deceased standing side-by-side, and those present happy at the end result.
All in all, a very pleasing and blessed day - amazing to walk in and realise that eleven of the hours that today has contained has been directly associated with funeral. Perhaps this have been the 'one day' I work sorted then?