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Hallo again to all.

We seem to be attending more and more funerals as time goes by. That makes sense, because our friends are mysteriously getting older; our attendance at funerals seems to be increasing correspondingly.

A funeral or memorial service is a spiritually and sociologically complex event. People attend for varying reasons. Fundamentally, funeral services are for the living and not for the dead: we attend for ourselves, for the family and friends of the deceased, or to contribute to public opinion ('that funeral was so well attended'). At a recent funeral we greeted the grieving father of the deceased saying 'I have no words'; he replied 'but you are here'.

We're not sure if we are Anglican because we feel so nourished by its liturgies or if we feel nourished by those liturgies because we are Anglican, but we know that when we hear the words 'I am Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord. Whoever has faith in me shall have life, even though he die' that the amount of pain in our heart is soon to decrease. The comfort we find in the Anglican funeral liturgy helps us significantly to get past the pain of the friend's death. In this 21st century there are many variations of Anglican funeral liturgy, but to our ears they all sound enough like the 1549 original that we think of them as 'the same'. Our beloved, for whom the service was held, is remembered and buried using much the same words that were used to bury his or her long-ago ancestors. The induced sense of absolute connection to the past and to the communion of all saints is part of why we are there.

Recently we attended a funeral that was a hybrid of Anglican liturgy and charismatic praise. The Anglican portions had familiar words, corporate prayer, and familiar music. The charismatic portions had extemporised words, songs whose words were projected on a huge screen, and music and instruments that were unfamiliar to us. While one of the pastors was speaking, the man in the chair next to us raised his hand high in the air, and it took us a moment to realize he wasn't trying to ask a question but was participating, in a manner familiar and comforting to him. We never did raise a hand in the air, but when at the end the priest returned to the lectern to lead the Committal, we poured a lot of feeling and volume into reciting the Lord's Prayer. We don't think that the man whose raised hand we had noticed said the prayer aloud, though perhaps he did so quietly and we just didn't hear.

Styles of worship are so different; we know that. Normally we don't mind a bit attending a worship service that is greatly different from our norm. But for some reason, at a funeral service we feel a much stronger need for the liturgy to be familiar — or that there even be a liturgy — than on an ordinary Sunday. At this hybrid service, we did not leave with the sense of having attended a funeral; it felt more like having watched a television show. We hope that the many charismatics in the congregation were better served, that this felt to them like a proper funeral.

We went home afterwards and found our fragile copy of the 1604 Book of Common Prayer (printed in 1610), found a quiet corner of our home, and read, aloud but quietly, the funeral service liturgy from it. Afterwards we think we probably did feel the way we needed to feel.

See you next week.

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12 February 2017

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