Latest Rector’s Letter

Preparing the dying for their death.

It is nearly thirty years since I was ordained a priest, but there is still a phrase from that service that runs around inside my head. In charging us with our pastoral responsibilities, the Bishop urged us to ‘Have the
pattern of the Good Shepherd always before you, minister to the sick and’ (here it comes . . . ) ‘prepare the dying for their death.’
My observation is that most people are very ill prepared indeed. The season of Advent is all about preparation. The Latin word adventus translates as ‘the arrival’: we decorate our homes with trees and tinsel for the guests who will come; we prepare gifts and food for those who will visit. But do we manage to rise above the superficiality
of the seasonal fairy dust and see ourselves comfortable in standing before God?
From the moment of your conception there is an inevitable arc to the trajectory of your life that ends with your death. The singular conclusion to the story of our mortal existence is its cessation. I am sometimes troubled and occasionally distressed at the lack of preparation for that great moment. Awkward, fearful and in denial we
dance light-footedly around it with our loved ones. Both they and we are left practically and spiritually ill prepared.
So this Advent, can I persuade you all, as good Boy Scouts, to be prepared for ‘the arrival’: do your loved ones know if you would prefer to be buried or cremated? Have you thought about your funeral service or considered taking out a funeral plan? Have you written a will that reflects what matters to you and provides for the people and the
charitable causes that matter to you? If you wrote it twenty years ago, have you updated it since? Have you discussed the level of medical intervention you want at the point of your dying?
At a spiritual level, are you prepared to meet face-to-face the Divine Being that gave you life? Are you ready to have that life judged – the things you did and the things you failed to do? How you spent your time and how you spent your money? How you dealt with the wounds you caused, the causes you neglected, and the neglects you failed to rectify in life?
And in my case, am I ready to be challenged ‘And so, Jeff – did you prepare the dying for their death?’ It would be a poor response indeed, if all I can come up with is ‘I think I did a better job preparing the Church for Christmas.’

Jeff Cuttell
Editor – Mr W. Ball
The Old Vicarage, Reades Lane, Congleton, CW12 3LL
All Saints’ Chapel of Ease, Somerford: The ne