Light in the shadows

Light in the Shadows, the Memorial Service


As we approach Christmas the shadows lengthen, the days grow shorter and the battle between winter and summer wanes in favour of darkness and cold.


The symbols of darkness and light are fundamental human symbols that have been celebrated in Christian (and other religions’) worship for millennia.  At Christmas we will celebrate the arrival of the light of Christ being birthed into the dark world, but before then a flickering light is brought into the darkness to remind us of the hope of resurrection.  


On 5th November at 6pm in Barwick Church a Service of light for the recently departed will be held.  It is a wonderfully gentle and enriching service that ends with dozens of candles being lit by the congregation, each one representing a person who has died that the congregation member wants remembered.  The candles are placed in the shape of a cross and the electric lights are extinguished leaving only the candles as bright points in the darkness.


Sitting each year, watching the candles burn in the silent darkness, I am moved by the hope of resurrection that those small candles represent in the lives of the mourners.


Each year the service is held on the first Sunday of November and this year it coincides with another, less positive celebration, which also uses fire.  Bonfire Night recollects a time of religious sedition and terrorism not unlike our own when people of one religious belief sought to bring murder and harm to the people of another religion.  In a particularly negative way Bonfire Night glories in the defeat of one religious belief system over the extremists of another belief system (and if you don’t believe me you should go to the Bonfire Night celebrations in Lewes where an effigy of the Pope is regularly burnt).


In the face of such negative connotations the Service of Light for the Recently Departed offers a positive, more nuanced, response to death.


Darkness and light, death and resurrection, joy and sorrow,are all part of the balance of life that tapestries itself into our psyche.  As we make our way through the dreary winter months, let us hold tight to the light and joy that can be found in all things, even alternative religious belief systems.  And can I invite you to come to the service of light on November 5th at 6pm in Barwick Church.  It really is a special service, even if you haven’t lost a loved one recently, you can remember a loved one lost many years ago and it will still be powerful.