Thursday 4th November, St Stephen’s, Gloucester Road
The Coronavirus pandemic has given rise to many tensions in our society. One which particularly impinged on church life and practice arose around the extent to which a concern to protect others by minimising the risk of infections and serious illness should override the freedom to worship in church and to maintain the ministry of Word and Sacrament. At times, it seemed to some as if a spirit of fear, a mindset of hopelessness, was squeezing out Christian witness to faith and trust in God. Even when the vaccination programme began to make a real difference, the danger of saying ‘fear not’ was revealed by the outraged response to the Health Secretary’s statement that we should not ‘cower’ in the face of the virus. Naturally, the numbers of people who died in care homes and in hospitals, especially in the early stages of the pandemic, has caused great distress; even now, with the success of the vaccination programme, deep sensitivity is needed in our comments and judgments.
Yet it is appropriate for Christians to reflect on attitudes to death. St Paul wrestled with the question of whether it was better to die and be with the Lord than to remain in this life. Pastorally, the Church must respond both to the human fear of death (and the consequent desire to evade the reality of dying and death) and to the hope of life through, with and in Jesus Christ beyond the constraints and limits of our mortality. The daily publication of the numbers of deaths ‘within 28 days of a positive Covid test’ moves us to sympathy for the bereaved and to pray for them; but Christians should also be praying for those who have died, rejoicing in our resurrection hope and trusting in God’s mercy.
The Guild of All Souls was founded by the Churchwardens of Fr Arthur Tooth’s parish in 1873 to encourage the good conduct of funerals, but also to offer intercessory prayer for the departed, affirming belief in the credal doctrines of the Resurrection of the Dead and the Communion of Saints. November, month of the Holy Souls, is when we are particularly committed to fulfilling this obligation, and the Guild has arranged to hold a Solemn Requiem this November, at St Stephen’s Gloucester Road, as it has done for many years on behalf of the Catholic Societies of the Church of England. Since 1904, St Stephen’s has been the central London Church for the Guild’s work. We were unable to have this service last year, and so it would be wonderful if this year, as we mourn so many who have died in the pandemic, we were able to gather in large numbers to fulfil our calling as Catholic Christians: to pray for the departed in union with the offering of the perfect Sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead.
The Solemn Requiem will be on Thursday November 4th, at 7pm in St Stephen’s Gloucester Road. The Bishop of Richborough, President of the Guild of All Souls, will be the Principal Celebrant, and the preacher will be Fr Paul Cartwright SSC, Parish Priest of All Saints, South Kirkby (a Guild living). All are welcome, and there will be refreshments afterwards for those who have attended the service.
Go forth, Christian soul, from this world,
in the name of God the almighty Father, who created you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God,
who suffered for you,
in the name of the Holy Spirit, who was poured out upon you,
go forth, faithful Christian.
May you live in peace this day; may your home be with God in Heaven,
with Mary, the virgin Mother of God,
with Joseph, and with all the angels and saints.
I commend you, my dear brother/sister, to almighty God,
and entrust you to your Creator.
May you return to Him who formed you from the dust of the earth.
May holy Mary, the angels and all the saints
come to meet you as you go forth from this life.
May Christ who was crucified for you
bring you freedom and peace.
May Christ who died for you
admit you into His garden of paradise.
May Christ, the true Shepherd,
acknowledge you as one of His flock.
May He forgive all your sins,
and set you among those He has chosen.
May you see your Redeemer face to face,
and enjoy the vision of God for ever. Amen.
Fr Andrew Greany SSC: Guild of All Souls Chantry Priest at Walsingham