This week Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing took him to St Mark’s in Dundela, East Belfast, where he encountered a powerful service focused on remembering our loved ones, especially those who have passed on.
“Remembering our loved ones” – St Mark’s Dundela
Following a text from Rev Adrian Dorrian to let me know the “Remembering our loved ones” service was on, I thought for various reasons it would be good to worship in St Mark’s this weekend. In my sermon at Mass in the morning, I had referred to C.S. Lewis. So I enjoyed seeing a C.S. Lewis mural and the wonderful sculpture at the Holywood Arches as I cycled to the church.
I was warmly welcomed by Rev Adrian Dorrian and the curate Rev Lynne Gibson.
Whilst I was waiting for the service to begin, I read from the parish magazine which contained Wilfred Owen’s poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” on the poetry page. What a powerful poem.
The service began with Adrian intoning the opening prayer and the robed choir processed in. I remember from last year the choir being very good and again tonight I found the choir to be excellent.
After the initial greeting, another prayer, and the penitence, we had the collect (opening prayer) for the Feast of All Saints – the liturgy was taken from the feast day. We then joined the choir in singing Ps 139 – “O Lord, thou has searched me out…”.
The scripture readings came from Isaiah 25:6-9 –“on this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food,” and Revelation 21:1-6a: “then I saw a new heaven and new earth”. Both passages were read superbly by a male member of the congregation.
Rev Lynne Gibson preached the sermon, which lasted 8½ minutes. She talked about giving up our loved ones into God’s care.
She connected this to the Feast of All Saints and commented on the readings which had a theme of celebration, banquet, party, and wedding feast, though she acknowledged that when we are in the depths of grief this sort of language is not especially helpful.
She referred to the gap in life where the loved one was, but is no more. She explained how the resurrection broke all the rules and reminded us that we believe in a God who walks among us and cares for us.
Then there followed a specially commissioned Anthem, “In the land of the living,” dedicated to the work of the Church’s Ministry of Healing and written in memory of two deceased children and their grandmother.
After that, both clergy read the names of those who had died in the last few years. I regretted I hadn’t asked for my mother’s name to be included – she had died earlier this year on Saturday 24 August. I found this a very dignified and reflective way of remembering. It was very appropriate we joined together with the choir in the singing of the “Nunc Dimittis” – Simeon’s words on seeing the infant Jesus and his readiness to face death.
After further prayers, we had the offertory hymn and then the Blessing. After the final hymn, any one who wanted to was invited to light a candle in memory of a loved one.