Yesterday morning I shared in a first - an online funeral service from Cambridge UK for a dear friend of mine, John Whitmore. John was slightly younger than me, and had suffered (uncomplainingly) for five years with prostrate cancer. He and his wife Sally have been part of our circle of friends for over a quarter of a century.
At 8:15 Carol and I were sitting in front of the computer monitor, looking over the shoulders of the first five rows of family and friends in the crematorium chapel. As we heard the pastor welcome us, read Scripture and pray it was as though we were present. Really! It was extraordinary. We joined in the hymns (John loved to sing!) Carol and I had sent a testimony of thanks for John’s life, hard work, friendship and (what made everything else sense about him) his faith in Jesus Christ. Five friends (most of whom we knew) went to the front to make their own tributes and the pastor read out our words. In his concluding comments and the prayers that followed we were there, one with them.
At the end of the service, the camera allowed us to see the congregation streaming out and as we recognized other friends we exclaimed excitedly “Oh look, there’s Rachael, etc!” Later, Carol talked with Sally about the service and the impact it had made on us.
In all our concerns about how the internet can complicate life and have negative influence, occasions like this show its positive gift. If I had been in England, I would have been present in person. But this was the next best thing and we shall always be grateful.