All Saints’ celebrates the unlikely heroes of the Church. Hand-in-hand with this goes All Souls’, which commemorates those we have known personally and no longer see, because they have gone ahead of us into God’s presence.
The longer you live, the more people you will know personally who have died. As I write, I have never lost a parent, or sibling; a spouse, or parent-in-law; or a child. But I know many people who have lost several of those closest to them. And children and teenagers are not exempt from such experience: death shows no favours.
We need to help our children and teenagers face death, appropriately. Not in the way that a trained grief counsellor will work with a school after the tragic death of a pupil or teacher. I’m not thinking here of immediate aftermath responses, though we need to think through these too, of course. But by creating dependable spaces where people can mark the reality of having lost someone, perhaps by lighting a candle; can share their memories, and be listened to; can ask questions, without any guarantee of answers – and without easy answers – but with the guarantee of being listened to; and by sharing hope (which is not the same thing as answers).
The Church calls this space All Souls.
Around our building there are memorials, in stone and metal and wood, to men and women of previous generations who have worshipped God and served the community faithfully in this place – including the church warden who died in a tragic accident in the belfry, crushed between bell and tower wall; and the man praised for his ‘disinterestedness’, which, in the language of his time, meant that he showed no favouritism to prestige or power but treated everyone with equal concern, and not, as it might suggest today, that he showed no concern for anyone.
They are those who are somewhere along the journey of moving from the living memory of All Souls to the family tree of All Saints. It is a journey we will all make, in time.
Whose stories inspire us, and for what reason? In whose slip-stream do we travel?
And what stories will be told of us, in our wake?