Archives December 2014

Christingle Service, Christmas Eve

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Equipment:
Christingle Kits and Grace, Knitted Nativity dotted around Church, Candles & Tapers, Fire Extinguishers and Water Buckets in Chancel. Voile covers the big nativity. All words and liturgy on TV/Projection Screen

People gather in Nave; while Tom & Jerry’s “Twas the Night before Christmas” plays

=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Tv6oU8dNEM

Welcome

(coming in from the back) 10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1…

Christmas starts… now! Welcome to our Christingle Service

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen

The Lord Be With You
And also with you

O Come All Ye Faithful (vs 1-3) ( Number 12 on Carol Sheets)

1 O come, all ye faithful,

joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
come and behold him,
born the King of angels:

O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

2 God of God,
Light of light,
Lo, he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
very God,
begotten, not created:
Chorus

3 Sing, choirs of angels,
sing in exultation,
sing, all ye citizens of heaven above:
‘Glory to God
in the highest:’
Chorus

Gather Children in Chancel. Call any stray children to join us.

• Now I won’t want to keep you long tonight as I know you all have to get back to your beds
• because some of you may be expecting something or someone later to call.
• However, before then, I want us tonight to go on a special journey.
• There are so many of us that we can’t actually move, but this will be a journey of the mind: a journey through the Christmas story, and through this journey, I hope that we will be able to remind ourselves of the reason why we gather on this special night, the reason for the season, the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

• So, let us begin our journey by hearing what Isaiah foretold…

Listen to this:

A reading from the book of a wise man called Isaiah

“Once upon a time, everyone lived in the dark,
but now – we can see!
They used to live in a world that was so full of shadows
But now – we have a light to light up our way!

We have God with us
And he has made us happy
He has sent us a baby
Who is to be our King,
And he will keep everyone safe.

This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

This is certainly an exciting time: and as we get all figitty with the sheer fun of seeing all our relatives, eating lots of scrummy food and may (if we’ve been good) opening the odd present or two! Sometimes, we can miss the reason for the season: sometimes amid the hustle and bustle, the noise, we can lose sight of the stillness, the pause.

My grandma told me something special when I was young, and it forever changed my life.

She played the piano and the organ in Church for many years, and tried to get me to play as well, but I wasn’t ever any good.

She would teach me the names of the notes, what a major key is, what a minor key is, she would try to teach me musical theory, but I was just bored.

Then one day she told me that the best news in the world could be found by playing a simple scale

I had no idea what she meant, so she told me to play a simple 8 note scale.

So I did…

I said “how on earth is that good news?”

She said that although I had played it fine, I had not played it correctly and that I needed to play it the other way. So I did.

Again, I said “how on earth is that good news?”

She said that I had played it the right way, but that I needed to add the pauses…

The pauses? The pauses she said. I needed to add them to the the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 7th and last notes.

I was frustrated. How can a scale with random pauses make good news? I got up, left the piano and went outside.

Frankly, I didn’t get was she was saying, and I didn’t really like playing the piano much anyway.

Years later, I remembered what she told me, and I even remembered as clear as day the pauses: the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 7th and last notes.

So I sat down at the old piano and did it, including those pauses

And that’s when I realized the good news she was talking about

Let us sing

Joy to the world (Verse 1 only, Number 11)

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and heav’n and nature sing.

Tonight we get the chance to think of the CHRIST who is behind all Christmas

GOD IS HERE – Emmanuel

Let us now sing The First Noel (Vs 1+6) as we turn round to the sanctuary

The First Noel (Vs 1+6) (Number 5)

1 The first Nowell the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay:
In fields where they lay a-keeping their sheep
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep:

Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Israel.

6 Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord,
That hath made heaven and earth of nought,
And with his blood mankind hath bought:

Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Israel.

Knitted Nativity – dotted around the church, who should be there?

Mary / Joseph / Shepherds / Kings / Animals

As people are spotted, let them go and pick them up and return to form mixed human/knitted tableau

No Jesus, because he is born tonight.

We have another crib in this church, before we see it let us sing While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks.

While Shepherds Watched their flocks (Number 7)

1 While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
all seated on the ground,
the angel of the Lord came down,
and glory shone around.

2 ‘Fear not,’ said he (for mighty dread
had seized their troubled mind);
‘glad tidings of great joy I bring
to you and all mankind.

3 ‘To you in David’s town this day
is born of David’s line
a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord;
and this shall be the sign:

4 ‘The heavenly babe you there shall find
to human view displayed,
all meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
and in a manger laid.’

5 Thus spake the seraph; and forthwith
appeared a shining throng
of angels praising God, who thus
addressed their joyful song;

6 ‘All glory be to God on high,
and to the earth be peace;
good will henceforth from heaven to men
begin and never cease.’

The Voile is lifted from the Big Nativity

Here we can see all those characters that we collected at the front of Church.

Listen to the story from the holy bible:

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew:

Joseph lived in the town of Nazareth
But one day he had to go all the way to Bethlehem with Mary
Even though she was going to have a baby.
While they were in Bethlehem,
The Baby was born – it was Mary’s first little boy,
And she dressed him up in baby clothes
And made a bed for him in a stable
Because there was no room left for them at the Inn.

This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

God, the powerful creator of the world, could have sent his Son in power and glory and forced us to be good; but God loves us, and wanted his Son to show us, not force us.

God sent Jesus in the world as a tiny, vulnerable baby; in an obscure corner of the world; so that the saviour of the world would be one of us: tiny and vulnerable in this great big world.

It’s very tempting to only think of the baby Jesus and to forget that this is not the end of the story, but only the beginning. The child born in a smelly, cold, cave which sheltered animals would grow up, and the fabulous stories told of his birth would be mirrored by those wonderful things he did as an adult: to make the deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk and to heal the sick; but none of that compares to the ultimate giving – the best present of all, the gift of our eternal life, won by the baby grown into the man, the man who offered himself on the cross.

So remember, don’t keep the baby in the manger, don’t cling onto the chocolate box image of the child, but allow the child to grow, and your faith will grow too – for the mature Jesus is the man who won us the ultimate freedom through the victory of the Cross.

Let’s see about this unexpected Christmas story, as told (rather cutely) by a bunch of kids from New Zealand…

=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TM1XusYVqNY

Christingles

This is a Christingle Service, which means I suppose that we should have some Christingles around here somewhere… Oh yes, you have them in kit form! I hope no-one has opened and eaten the sweets yet…

Because this year, I thought it would be a good idea for us to make our own, and you have the kit here

Can anyone tell me what a Christingle is?

=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKiRLecKWpM

The Christingle was invented by Saint Lucia in Scandanavia to explain symbolically God’s goodness to the world. As this is quite a large crowd, I’m going to scale up my Christingle a little bit, so everyone can see. It features:

• An Orange, which represents the World that God made.
• Four cocktail sticks, representing the four seasons, the four corners of the earth
• … dried fruit, and sweets representing God’s gifts to the world.
• A Red Ribbon tied around the Orange, representing the Blood of Christ
• A Lighted Candle representing Jesus Christ, shining in the world today

Christingles not only signify the goodness of God to us, but also they can be a focus for Christmas.

If you can, replace the sweeties on the Christingle tonight (show pic of bare Christingle) and place it alit on your Christmas table, so as you gather as a family, you can be reminded of the place that Jesus Christ has amongst your festivities.

Say the Grace Prayer in your pack before your meal, and thank God for bringing you together as a family. Inside the bag there is a special grace that you can say together when you have re-lit your Christingle

When you have completed your Christingle, let us gather before the Altar Rail, where we will light them.

The children will sing the first verse of Away in a Manger in the candlelight and then for the next two verses we will all join in.

Light Christingles LIGHTS OUT

Away in a Manager (Number 6)

(in dark, Children first verse, 2nd/3rd verse, all)

1 Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head;
the stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

2 The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.
I love thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky,
and stay by my bedside till morning is nigh.

3 Be near me, Lord Jesus: I ask thee to stay
close by me for ever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
and fit us for heaven, to live with thee there.

Now, tomorrow is the birthday of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, and all these candles make it look a bit like a birthday cake.

I don’t know if we have 2014 candles here, but we have quite a lot… What song do we sing at someone’s birthday? Why don’t we all sing “Happy Birthday Dear Jesus” to remind ourselves of why we celebrate Christmas – the birthday of the most special man ever in the history of the world!

Happy Birthday to you

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dear Jesus,
Happy birthday to you!

Blow Candles Out.

Blessing

May the humility of the shepherds,
the faith of the wise men,
the joy of the angels,
and the peace of the Christ Child,
be God’s gift to us and to all people this Christmas
and the blessing of God Almighty,
the +Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be upon you and remain with you, this night and always.

Amen

Depart

Go in the light & peace of Christ.
Thanks be to God.

END

Reading for Christingle Service 1

A reading from the book of a wise man called Isaiah
(small pause)

“Once upon a time, everyone lived in the dark,
but now – we can see!
They used to live in a world that was so full of shadows
But now – we have a light to light up our way!

We have God with us
And he has made us happy
He has sent us a baby
Who is to be our King,
And he will keep everyone safe.

(small pause)
Thanks be to God

Reading for Christingle Service 2

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew:
(small pause)

Joseph lived in the town of Nazareth
But one day he had to go all the way to Bethlehem with Mary
Even though she was going to have a baby.

While they were in Bethlehem,
The Baby was born – it was Mary’s first little boy,
And she dressed him up in baby clothes
And made a bed for him in a stable
Because there was no room left for them at the Inn.

(small pause)
Thanks be to God


Homily for Christmas Day

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

There was once this parish, and it had saved up for years to buy a new Nativity Set. It was beautiful, ornate, special and everyone in the parish was so proud of it. It had taken a few years to acquire, because the parish wasn’t made of money (a bit like us really) and finally, they had managed to complete the set and purchase the Bambino – the Christ Child to really finish it off.

The Vicar took a visitor to see it on St Stephen’s Day and horrors, it was missing – the manger was empty!

He heard the door latch and encouraged his visitor to hide with him in the shadows. Had the thief come back for more?

They watched, open mouthed, as a small boy pushed a wheelbarrow up the aisle towards the Crib.

On arrival he took out the Bambino and placing it in the manger was heard to say: “There, I told you that if I got a wheelbarrow for Christmas you would have the first ride in it!”

The good God loves hiding Himself in wrapping – a babe in Bethlehem, a refugee in Egypt, a growing boy in Nazareth, a friend of publicans and sinners, in broken Word, in Broken Bread and Wine out poured …..

but Shepherds, Magi, Peter, Countless men and women… and a small boy with a wheelbarrow knew Him!

Now that’s the Gift to expect, receive and rejoice over at Christmas and in every Eucharist.

May God bless you richly this holy season and in the year to come and may you treasure that hidden gem in our midst: the Christ-child born this day.

Amen


Nine Lessons and Carols (some useful notes)

Introduction

Beloved in Christ, be it this Christmastide our care and delight to hear again the message of the angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger.

Therefore let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child.

But first, let us pray for the needs of the whole world; for peace on earth and goodwill among all his people; for unity and brotherhood within the Church he came to build, and especially in our communities and in this diocese of Exeter

And because this of all things would rejoice his heart, let us remember, in his name, the poor and helpless, the cold, the hungry, and the oppressed; the sick and them that mourn, the lonely and the unloved, the aged and the little children; all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love.

Lastly, let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore, and in a greater light, that multitude which no man can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom in the Lord Jesus we are for ever one.

These prayers and praises let us humbly offer up to the Throne of Heaven, in the words which Christ himself hath taught us:

Our Father,
who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil;
for thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

May the Almighty God bless us with his grace; Christ give us the joys of everlasting life, and unto the fellowship of the citizens above may the King of Angels bring us all. Amen.

Introduction

The Nine Lessons and Carols tradition was begun in 1919 at King’s College Cambridge by the Dean, Eric Milner-White, although it was adapted from a format created by Bishop Benson of Truro in 1880 in order to keep people from the Pubs on Christmas Eve: but I promise I won’t keep you that long!

That classical introduction that we have just heard comes from the original 1919 Service, and reminds us of its purpose: to rehear the story afresh, no matter how many times we have heard it through song and Scripture: from the depths of the Old Testament and the Prophets and to the Revelation of Christ in the Gospels, and to treasure it. Although we regard many of the Carols we will sing tonight as ancient, typically, most of them are Victorian, or Victorian adaptations at least.

So, to begin, let us begin our lessons so that we might learn:

READING THEN CAROL

Genesis 3:8-15 The Fall

1. Once in Royal David’s City 19

Once in Royal David’s City was originally written as poem by Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander. It was first published in 1848 in Miss Cecil Humphreys’ hymnbook Hymns for little Children.

CF Alexander (a Bishop’s wife) is also remembered principally for her hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful. But I won’t hold that against her.

Genesis 22:15-18 The Promise to Abraham

2. Of the Father’s Love Begotten 3

Of the Father’s Love Begotten is ancient: written by the Roman Poet Aurleius Prudentius, and being set to Medieval Plainchant. The version known and loved in English was translated by John Mason Neale, an Anglican Priest and key liturgist of the Oxford Movement. He was influential in reviving many ancient hymns to the Church of England.

Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 The Prophecy of the Messiah’s birth

3. O Little Town of Bethlehem 1

In 1865, Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), an American Anglican clergyman, visited Bethlehem. That visit inspired him to write this carol originally as a poem in 1867. Originally set to a tune called S. Louis (he was American after all), in this country we most know it set to Ralph Vaughn Williams’ tune Forest Green an adaptation of a traditional English folk-tune “The Ploughboys Dream” and appeared first in the much beloved English Hymnal of 1906.

Isaiah 11:1-9 The Prophecy of the Messiah’s Kingdom of Peace

4. In the bleak midwinter 2

The text of this much loved Carol was written by the English Pre-Raphelite Poet, Christina Rosetti in 1872 and was set to this tune by Gustav Holst (of the Planet Suite fame) for the 1906 English Hymnal.

For me and for many, the real meaning of the Carol is given in the last verse, where we are encouraged to give to Christ not the riches of the earth but something far more valuable and befitting of God in human flesh:

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can, I give Him –
Give my heart.

Luke 1:26-38 The Annunciation

5. Angels from the realms of Glory 18

Angels from the Realms of Glory was written by Scottish poet James Montgomery in 1816. There are a variety of well known tunes including Regent Square by Henry Smart, but in the UK we usually use the French Carol tune Iris as featured in the Oxford Book of Carols

Matthew 1:18-34 The Birth of Emmanuel

6. Silent Night 13

The words of Silent Night were written by a Priest called Fr. Joseph Mohr in Mariapfarr, Austria, in 1816 and the music was added in 1818, by his school teacher friend Franz Xaver Gruber, for the Christmas service at St. Nicholas church in Oberndorf, Austria. It was translated into English in 1863 by John Freeman Young.

The carol was sung during the Christmas Truce in the First World War in December 1914 as it was a song that soldiers on both sides knew!

In this year of the Anniversary of that lull in the terrible carnage of the Great War, when humanity dared to break out amidst the hostilities, it is perhaps good that we still gather to sing of that Silent and Holy Night where peace on earth might once again break out and end the hostilities caused by man’s greed and vanity.

Luke 2:8-16 The Shepherds go to the Manger

7. While Shepherds watched their flocks 7

Despite what you and I might have sung in the playground, the Carol While Shepherds Watched their Flocks neither features clean socks nor the watching of BBC or ITV or anything. The words are attributed to Irish lyricist and poet laureate Nahum Tate and was for some time before 1700 the only hymn permitted to be sung in Church – prior to 1700 only Psalms could be sung. Thank goodness we in the good old CofE have seen the light on that one!

As for tunes, well, many are connected with it… On Ilkley Moor

Matthew 2:1-11 The Magi are led by the star to Jesus

8. We three Kings 21

The Quest of the Magi was written in 1857 by American John Henry Hopkins and is responsible for encding in our memories a number of thing about the gentile visitors to the Christ Child which are not attested to in Scripture.

The Gospel of Matthew identifies them as Magi – wise men or astrologers, mystics from the East, perhaps Persia or further East, but does not identify how many there were – only that they brought 3 gifts. Their names were therefore never given, but the names we know, love and sing of tonight: Kaspar Melchior and Balthazar were given by the 2nd Century theologian Tertullian and still persist. I like them named, as it personifies this revelation to the world of Christ and helps us to explore the mystical meanings of the gifts of Gold, Incense and Myrhh, more of which we will explore at the Feast of the Epiphany

John 1:1-14 The Incarnation of the Word of God

9. Joy to the World 11

The words of Joy to the World are by Isaac Watts, that great 18th Century Hymn writer and speaks of both Christ’s Incarnation and his second coming in Glory, to which we all look. The tune is often thought to be by Handel, but isn’t. Certainly no more than 4 notes lifted from the Messiah, anyway. Antioch was written by Lowell Mason in 1839 and is one of the most popular of all Christmas Hymns.

Homily

Blessing and Dismissal

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
he has come to his people and set them free.

Light has sprung up for the righteous
and joyful gladness for those who are true-hearted.

Glory to God in the highest
and peace to his people on earth.

May the humility of the shepherds,
the faith of the wise men,
the joy of the angels,
and the peace of the Christ Child,
be God’s gift to us and to all people, this Christmas
and the blessing of God Almighty,
the +Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon you and remain with you, this night and always.
Amen.

Go in the peace of Christ
Thanks be to God


Nursery Rhyme Carols (a first draft)

I started working on these,  thinking they might work for the Christmas Eve children’s Services…

As usual with most early drafts,  some of the rhymes are a little dodgy,  but that’s what the community is for,  so let’s work on these together in a Creative Commons sort of way,  and adopt,  adapt &  improve. Post changes/rewrites/new ones in the comments below…

To ‘here we go round the Mulberry bush’

Jesus Christ is born today
born today,  hiphip hooray
God himself has come to play
To be with us as human

He comes to earth not with a crown
But in a manger laying down
Poor as us,  dirt all around
Born to come and save us

To ‘baa baa blacksheep

Shepherds watch their flocks by night
Are confronted by the sighr
Of the Angels singing sweet
About the Messiah come tonight
Good news has come to all on earth
Because of Jesus’ special birth

TO ‘Little Jack Horner

Herod the King would do anything
To cling onto his power
So when heard
The rumour absurd
That David’s true heir had come back

The King was enraged which went on for days
How could he hold onto his power
So he hatched a plan
To destroy this man
Before he could grow to be a rival

Round Bethlehem Town the soldiers went down
And gathered up all the small families
And what they did do
To all under Two
Was unspeakable but never be forgotten

But warned from his bed,  Joseph had fled
With Mary and Christ-child to safety
They were refugees
Sought Asylum you see
In Egypt where Herod couldn’t get them

So children don’t fear
Herod can’t now come near
At home you can rest safely
Jesus got away to wait for the day
When he could come out to save us.

to ‘hush little baby’

Don’t worry Joseph
It’s gonna be okay
Mary really is
In the family way
But the child
Is God’s own Son
You’ve got a special task
To love him as your own

Take your young bride
All the way to Bethlehem
It’s many days walk
Until you get there then
Not in a palace
Or in a cozy home
The baby will be born
Just the three of you alone

Deep down amidst the mud and the straw
By the animals, in the stable to be sure
God comes to earth
not in a golden crown
>>
>>


Tony Farnfield (1967-2014)

FARNFIELD ANTHONY KENNETH (Tony) Passed away suddenly on 25th November 2014, aged 47 years. He will be greatly missed by his wife Paula, parents Brian & Maureen, both families, many friends and colleagues. A service in celebration of Tony's life to be held at Reading Minster Church of St Mary the Virgin on Wednesday 17th December at 2.00pm followed by a private committal. No flowers, but donations, if desired, to Round Table Children’s Wish, 857 Wimborne Road, Bournemouth BH9 2BQ or via www.rtcw.org. All enquires to AB Walker & Son Ltd. Tel: 0118 9573650

Tony and I met at school. He was always so much taller than me… than all of us, really.

He introduced me to Stevie Wonder and all kinds of obscure funk music, most of which would be both extremely amusing and quite unplayable here. We shared a love of Minis: although mine tended to rust away and his wrapped around lampposts (he claimed he was avoiding a cat!). We played Basketball together, and formed with a few others an unoffical school team because the authorities didn’t want reprobates like us representing them. I looked up to Tony, and not just because of his height advantage.

There would never be any question of who would be my Best Man. Who else would I trust, who else would, I knew be there for me; he drove us both down to Seaford in Sussex for my wedding on the hottest day of the year in a cramped TR7 with the heating full on (because it was broken and stuck on). The combination of such a tall man in such a cramped and hot car will never leave me: the sauna courtesy of shocking British Leyland engineering ensured that I fitted snugly in my morning suit!

Tony was Godfather to my eldest Son, Liam. His attitude to buying gifts for Liam was “what would I want?” and this ensured that Tony’s was always the coolest, fasted, loudest, most raucous, most loved thing on the table, usually brought down to us in some flash open-topped convertible pose-mobile. His favourite party trick for my kids was when he put a TV-themes CD in the stereo and (clearly with practised timing) set the automatic roof to open to the Thunderbirds theme!

We both separately joined Table in our own parts of the world (Seaford and Newhaven 837 in my case), and whenever passing, a Table meeting was always on the cards, or somehow a Brewery Tour conjured up out of nowhere. We even saw the new Millennium in together.

When Tony suffered his major and life-changing road accident, there was no doubt in my mind where I had to be, and I broke all kinds of traffic regulations to get across the country to be at his bedside. If ever I am asked (and strangely enough, I am often asked) about whether prayer works, I point to Tony Farnfield. Over the space of first hours and then weeks and then months, Tony went from extremely critically ill, to probably permanently damaged, to probably permanently dehabilitated to fully restored and returned to us: a tribute to both the hard work and skill of a whole variety of healthcare professionals and the power of prayer: a whole host of people holding Tony before God and a living proof of the combination of hard work from himself, and the love, prayer and support of those who surrounded him then, and even now gather to support all those who grieve over the tragically untimely loss of Tony now.

Tony often afterwards spoke to me of that accident as a spiritually life-changing incident and was the foundation of his life as a man of faith. Tony was always very supportive of me in my priestly vocation and accompanied me at theological college in Yorkshire through the journey of Holy Week, even though with his bean-counter’s hat on, he proudly declared by Easter Day “I’ve done 76 episodes of Church this Holy Week, I can now take the rest of the year off”.

Several times a week, Tony remains before me, as I take Holy Communion around my own parish, using the set he gifted me at Ordination. On it is a tag which bears the Scripture 2 Corinthian 1:3-4

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

There are no simple or facile words which can be offered in the face of this tragic loss, no mantra which blithely papers over the reality of the hole that is left in the lives of many family, friends, Tablers, and work colleagues. However, the promise of Christ – known and personally experienced by Tony, looks beyond the frame of our lives and into an eternal promise. God comforts us in our troubles and promises to wipe away every tear from our eyes. Death is (although we never speak of it) a reality for all of us, a part of life, even when that life is cut tragically short as in Tony’s case before he had had nearly enough fun.

What we are left with are memories. In my case, getting onto 40 years of happy memories. In those memories, in the love and – yes – in the prayer of those who remain here on earth, Tony remains with us. I will never be able to shake off the memory of his appalling taste in shoes; nor his habit of changing his car more frequently than his socks; nor can I ever forget his love and care and concern for me and then for my family.

My oldest friend, now gathered into the loving and restoring arms of God, remains here in my prayers, and in my memories; and in the memories of all of us gathered here today. So as God comforts Tony, ripped from us, may we too know of the comfort God offers us all.

Rest eternal grant unto him O Lord
and let light perpetual shine upon him

My he rest in peace
and rise in Glory