Last month I was sitting in a hearse (something I often do) at St Hilda’s Church, Whitby, waiting for everyone to gather to move off to Scarborough crematorium.
As I waited I idly flipped through my book of Pastoral Services, which includes services for the birth of a new child, The Marriage Service, Services for Healing and Wholeness and the Funeral Service.
In fact, services for all those important points in our lives.
In the introduction to the book there is a very good preface explaining, theologically, the purpose of the role of the Church’s Pastoral offices in our Christian lives. Sometimes we need to pause and reflect what we are doing in these pastoral services – for it is a large part of what the Church is called to do.
The whole thrust of the Pastoral offices is to provide people with an ‘accompanied journey’ with questions:
So the journey of life we take is an accompanied one. God is with us every step of the way.
Sometimes the realization of that presence is conveyed to us through the presence of God’s people on the journey.
As on a medieval pilgrimage, different people on the road have different backgrounds and a variety of family relationships.
They engage in different occupations and have varied functions in relation to others on the journey.
Not all are travelling at the same speed.
Some spend their time specifically helping others along and ministering to them; some imagine their own burdens are too great for them to be able to help others.
The Church is a pilgrim church, a body of people on the move. Even though some
people, for example on the funeral and bereavement journey, may feel isolated, what these services do is to put that journey in the context of the Church, the Church which prays, which celebrates, which cares. For the sake of those for whom it cares, the Church and its liturgy need to embody that flexibility to adjust to different pastoral situations which is implied by being a church on the move.
They also need to reflect that dependability, consistency and stability which is implied by the long history of the Church’s worship, traditions and buildings.
We serve God, who is the same yesterday, today and for ever, and who is continually doing new things, drawing his new creation to himself.
The pastoral task of the Christian Church, all the people of God, ministers and laity, is to provide company on the journey, towards baptism, marriage, welcoming
children and at death itself.
This is the kind of company, which, in revealing the love of Christ, will draw people to put their faith in him and to serve him in the fellowship of his Church until they come to their eternal home in the company of all the saints.’
(From The introduction to Common Worship – Pastoral Offices 2000)On our journey God is with us always in the people who accompany us on this journey – God’s Pilgrim People – The Church, Whitby)