Friday, June 23, 2023

Last Funeral (3)

Yesterday, in boiling heat, I took part in my last funeral.  As expected Robin Page's funeral had a packed church with seats in the surrounding graveyard, as speakers relayed the service. I mentioned earlier that he was a colourful, controversial, local character with a high national profile.  Obituaries in most daily papers described his highly active life as countryman, farmer, pioneer conservationist, TV presenter, friend of royalty, journalist, author, broadcaster, political activist, campaigner, international naturalist - specially Africa, National Trust Board member and so on and on.  Robin had asked me to take his service but since he also wanted it in the parish church, as a Baptist minister I was prevented from leading, which the delightful vicar took over.

A friend of the family and another character conservationist was asked to give the tribute.  He took this extremely seriously, phoning me at length about the content of his address.  Initially there was a misunderstanding because he thought he was giving the main address and I was saying a few words at the beginning!.  You can see where this is going can't you?  It was well-crafted with humour and good content. When he had asked me how long he should be I had gingerly suggested around 10 minutes.  Well, it took 25 minutes but the congregation applauded him.

The difficulty was that in my address I too was reflecting on Robin before going onto a particularly relevant theme (he loved his sheep) of The Good Shepherd who moves Psalm 23 into reality at Easter. As you can imagine he had beaten me to several details.  So, I asked the Spirit to wield an editor's blue pencil while I was speaking and cut out sections but keep the essentials. Not for the first time!  And, nobody noticed the slicing and dicing. 

His first hymn was his favourite: In the bleak midwinter.  with that last verse: If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb.  Years ago, in one of his columns he had written that even if his funeral is in the middle of a heatwave in July he wanted it sung.  Well, one month out!

Perhaps, since this is my last funeral and this service marks the end of this responsibility in my ministry I can post one or two more details.  You don't have to read them.

No comments: