Rev'd  Canon Gregory Webb, Rural Dean of Sudbury and  Priest in Charge, Lynda Sebbage, Reader and Rev'd Helen Mitchell, Associate Priest.
The Rectory September 2013

Dear Friends,
“An experience of God?”

Have you had a “religious experience?” I was in conversation with someone recently who had had a profound sense of the presence of God when they had been in a particular place. They told me this expecting that such an experience was unusual. However, I said that I thought many people had had what can best described as a “religious experience” but that many were reluctant to talk of what had happened because they also thought such experiences were unusual. Certainly many people have spoken to me about such experiences. Sometimes these seem to be related to a “place” – others do not. The common feature was the sense of the presence of God.

Religious experience is one of the arguments for the existence of God. People argue, how else can such things be explained? I would not be surprised if many of you who are reading this have experiences to tell. Do share them with others – you will be surprised how many people can tell you a story of their own!

I am sure that many of the visitors to St Gregory’s Church have a religious experience when they visit – it is, after all, a “sacred space.” The comments in the visitor’s book suggest that there is a sense of peace in the building. The number of prayers left, and candles lit, points to the sacredness of the space and the undoubted presence of God – a presence that we might be better able to sense if we come with expectancy – but no doubt God can also surprise! Certainly many stories I have been told are by people who were not expecting any sort of experience – the experience just happened – maybe it is such cases that are so memorable, and remain with us.

It may be that some of you would like to write an article for the magazine sharing your experience of God. If so, it would be a real encouragement to others.

Yours in Christ,

Revd Gregory J Webb
From St. Gregory’s Rectory - October 2013

Dear Friends,

“My funeral - a subject to avoid or face up to?”

I do apologise if this is a difficult subject to raise. I am conscious that for some this might not be the right time for various reasons, but nevertheless it is a subject that we would all do well to address at some stage.

While giving some thought to our own funeral can sound a morbid thing to do, it can be very helpful, both to ourself, and to those who might have the responsibility of arranging it when the time comes. To have some ideas noted down can be so helpful for the family/next of kin. There is also something quite special about a service that has partly been the wishes of the person who has died.

What is it helpful to think about – some suggestions….

1) Burial or cremation? The majority of people are now cremated, but not all, and there is a cemetery in Sudbury although the churchyards are now all closed.

2) Venue for the service? The service can always be held in church – even if the deceased has not been a regular attender. The church building is here for the community. It has the advantage of being large enough (or small enough) for any size of congregation, and is accessible for all who live in Sudbury and the surrounding villages. A service at a crematorium will mean travelling and will have a set time allowed for the service.

(see the article after this letter for some further guidance about church and crematorium.)

3) Hymns/music: it is possible to have hymns sung and/or music played – either on the organ or piano, or on a CD. Neither hymns or music are compulsory but can obviously add a lot to the service.

4) Eulogy/tribute: while few would write their own eulogy, it can be really helpful to have noted down an “outline” of your life – often even children do not know where their parents were born/got married etc. Also – who might speak? The vicar/minister will always willing to speak, but is there a friend or family member who would do so – either instead or in addition?

5) Readings: is there a Bible reading that is a favourite of yours? You can also have a poem or other reading if you would like.

6) Who will take part? Are there friends or family (including young children) who might like to do something as part of the service?

7) Donations: is there a charity/charities you would like to support through donations?

8) You can be creative: a funeral service does not have to follow a “traditional” pattern – there are some creative things that can be included. E.g. lighting of candles; music for reflection; photos or symbols representing interests or memories…

Helen or I would be very willing to have a chat with you if you would like to discuss possibilities. It is an important thing to do – and the family will usually be so grateful that you have left them some guidance!

Yours in Christ,
Revd Gregory J Webb

Additional Notes: Venue and pattern for a Funeral Service

If the church is to be the venue for the funeral (and it is always possible to hold the service at St Gregory’s) there remain decisions to be made about the crematorium or cemetery. There is also the question of refreshments – where and when? There are various possibilities that can be considered – there is no right or wrong way:

1) Church Service first followed by the burial or cremation at cemetery or crematorium. Either of these can make it difficult for the entire congregation to get together for refreshments because of the time needed to go on to the burial or cremation. One possibility is to have the refreshments immediately after the church service and then go to the cemetery/crematorium much later.

2) Crematorium service first, followed by the Church Service. This would mean that e.g. the family have a quiet funeral service at the Crematorium and then go to the church for what will be a Memorial or Thanksgiving Service as the coffin will not be present. (There can be gap between the two for lunch etc.) The refreshments can then immediately follow the church service.

3) Church Service only: if the funeral service takes place in church then at the cemetery or crematorium usually only the “prayer of committal” is said. This prayer can actually be said as part of the church service itself, and there would then be no need for anyone to go on to the cemetery or crematorium (although the minister could always accompany the coffin if required.) This pattern has the advantage that everyone is able to attend the whole service, but some of course would find the idea of the coffin go on without the family difficult. However, this does avoid the problem of the service being in two parts.

There may be other possibilities as well, but hopefully the above is helpful. Again, Helen or I would be pleased to talk about these possibilities.