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Accompanying the dying

Looking back over Christmas there is much to rejoice about in terms of delivery of services, pastoral care and evangelistic engagement.

My Christmas took me visiting both hospital and hospice. It was a privilege to bring the sacraments a number of times to a dying church member and then celebrate her joyous Christian funeral.

Accompanying a sister or brother towards death is an awesome privilege of my priestly ministry and here it was assisted by the church member's strong faith and her devout family with whose sorrows my life has been united.

As parish priest there are just a few things only I can deliver. When these heap up, there being no one to delegate to, you can feel a bit overwhelmed.

Christmas services fall much on the shoulders of a priest, as does accompanying the dying, so it was a demanding Christmas this year.

Hospital and Hospice chaplaincy engages both clergy and laity of course.  Despite this partnership I read in The Tablet (22/29 Dec) of how many Roman Catholic patients are sadly dying today without last rites. A bishop is quoted: 'There are fewer priests. That is a fact. The priest is not expendable but must be valued and not killed off with unreachable expectations'.

Ministering Christ's love, truth and empowerment is for all Christians even if some ministries are reserved to the ordained. Last Sunday gave us a reminder of this as the sermon touched on our Mission Action Plan 'to grow in faith, love and numbers'. If St Giles is to grow, I said, we need more intercessory prayer for those sympathetic to the Church and more courage to invite such people among our acquaintance to services.

Prayer and invitation are two scissor blades to help us cut through apathy and unbelief so priest and people may rejoice with new folk entering the purpose for living and a reason for dying that is ours in Jesus Christ.

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