After a short spell of accounts work in City Hall this afternoon, I had a bereavement visit out in Ely, prior to a funeral on Friday. I'm standing in for Jan the Vicar, who is away for the weekend. I was warmly welcomed into the family home by the widow and her three daughters, who between them boast ten children and eleven grand children - a happy family indeed, who'd rallied around and supported each other during Dad's two and half years of terminal illness, living with his dying bravely and with good humour, ably assisted by the home care team from George Thomas Hospice.
There wasn't much for me to do really. They'd chosen the hymns, and there was no place other than the 'Res', as Glanely's Parish Church of the Resurrection is called, for it to take place. All they asked was for me to tell Dad's story with appreciation, and not to make the service morbid or sad.
I can never get over the trust which families place in us clergy, even when we're total strangers. Pilots, drivers, surgeons, others too who take our lives in their hands, have even greater standing in terms of trust, but it's based on up to date qualifications and their performance record.
Churches as public institutions which accredit the work of the clergy have taken a hammering in terms of public confidence over decades, yet at grass roots level people are still prepared to trust this uniformed stranger recommended to them by someone else in their community they may not know too well. How it all works is wonderful and mysterious to me, and something of of privilege of honour to be accepted and welcomed thus.