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Saint Paul's Vicarage, Huddersfield Road, STALYBRIDGE, Cheshire

Funerals Death is the only guaranteed certainty about life. It is something that can happen when you are young or old; it can be expected or sudden; it can be a tragedy or a release. Nobody knows for certain what happens when you die, but Christians believe that God's love and power extend over all creation. Every life, including our own, is precious to God.
funeral candle Christians have always believed that there is hope in death as in life, and that there is new life in Christ over death. Even those who share such faith find that there is a real sense of loss at the death of a loved one. We will each have had our own experiences of their life and death, with different memories and different feelings of love, grief and respect.
The funeral service is an occasion to express our faith and our feelings as we say farewell, to acknowledge our loss and our sorrow, and to reflect on our own mortality. The church offers funeral services as a way of providing support and consolation to those who mourn.
Please contact the Vicar at the address above for more information.

Bereavement The loss of those we love is one of the hardest and most painful experiences of this life. We are aware of an aching gap torn in our lives, we are bewildered and fearful, and for a time at least everything can seem pointless and without meaning. Death can test our faith to the uttermost- it can make us wonder what we believe and if indeed we are able to believe.
Abridged version of a sermon preached at St Paul's by Rev. Christine Bull, Priest Pastor of Chester Cathedral on 9 November 2008. Confronted with death our emotions are raw and need to be expressed- whether publicly or very privately will depend upon individuals. There may be shock and grief, anger and confusion. These feelings need expression if we are to grow beyond our suffering to a hope resting on sure foundations. Allowing ourselves to grieve is the pathway to greater awareness of the rich tapestry of life, the interweaving of pain and joy, and so to a greater capacity for love and compassion.
  When personal tragedy comes to us it changes us- and the scars remain with us, become part of who we are. There is no way round pain- sooner or later we have to go through it- learn to befriend our sorrow and hold it somewhere deep inside- to hold it so that it does not have a hold over us. We don’t get over things- that would be a denial of our love- like saying we no longer cared. But we can’t be swallowed up by it either- if we let it consume us, we cease to be able to cope with life at all. It all takes time, and there will be moments of aching loss, too great to contain, when we cry out ‘Why?’
  In that ‘why’ we face all the mystery of human living. There are in fact very few answers to the great human questions- the moments of birth, the moments of death, the times of deep loving, the times when an experience of beauty stops us in our tracks. All we can do is to acknowledge that we are in the presence of the mystery of God – God who has promised a new heaven and a new earth, whom we trust to wipe away every tear and who comes to make his home with us [Revelation 21:1-7].
  My own experience has been that God is deeply present to us in our grief. I have found God most profoundly at the dark moments in my life and have learnt that there is no pain, no suffering that he does not understand. His love makes good, redeems all those times when our own love falters. With him we experience the caress of an almighty kindness - we can express our grief, lean on him and find the comfort of which the prophet Isaiah speaks [Isaiah 63:1-3].
  ‘Comfort’ is a word which is often used these days to imply armchairs and affluence. We feel comfortable or we are comfortably off. But the word actually means ‘to make strong’, to be strengthened. When we openly and honestly express our grief we find that we receive strength. It doesn’t mean we forget - it would be wrong to do that and we can’t. It doesn’t mean we will get over it - love for those who in whatever degree we share our lives with is indelible - it cannot be wiped out. But the strengthening which is God’s comfort and gift to us will enable us to find a way to accept our pain and loss, even though we know we will always wish it had been otherwise.
  The beauty and the wonder of life are available to us now- eternal life is available to us now- in union with Jesus. That awareness of a great, eternal mystery came to the playwright Dennis Potter, recorded in a remarkable TV interview with Melvyn Bragg. Dying of cancer , he spoke of his awareness of the ‘nowness’ of things:

Below my window in Ross-on-Wye the blossom is out in full. It’s a plum tree- it looks like apple blossom but it’s white. And instead of saying ‘Oh, that’s nice blossom,’ looking at it through the window while I write, I think it is the whitest, frothiest, blossomiest blossom that there ever could be.’
 

A few days before my mother died I think she had a similar experience. ‘Isn’t it beautiful?’ she said – and she wasn’t referring to the weather- she was already on her final journey.

  It is an experience of the intensity of the present-as a glimpse of the inexpressible beauty of the eternal life which is our hope. Once you see it, you see it, and you celebrate.
  Our loved ones have gone before us into the light; they have gone home- and I think it makes all the difference in the world to what you do in the world and the way you do it, if your believe, to quote Wordsworth, that ‘trailing clouds of glory do we come from God who is our home.’
  Resurrection is not to do with the resuscitation of dead bodies - it is the gift of a new kind of life - the new heaven and the new earth - a life which exists on the far side of death, destruction and disintegration. Jesus rose from the dead - he is not trapped in history as a memory - he is a living reality, loving us, interceding for us, available to us. Our loved ones whom we remember are also a living reality- we just can’t see them.
  So let us rejoice with them and for them and believe that when we leave this world we will be received into the hands of a loving and compassionate providence who is our alpha and our omega, our beginning and our end- whose love fulfils and completes us.