All Souls Day
Just been to church. I live opposite St. Andrews Church in Presteigne, one of 4 Church of England churches in Wales. (It’s a long story, with which I won’t bore those readers uninterested in church history).
I went because today is All Souls Day, a day of remembrance for those who have recently died. And I wanted to have one last cry for old Chas Ambler; to bring an end, somehow, to grief, and to pass into remembering my dear old friend in a different way. It was a beautiful and simple service, with liturgy taken from the Book of Common Prayer. Whenever I hear, or read, passages from the Book of Common Prayer, I always think that this is at the root of what prose writers in English are trying to do. Dramatists and poets get Shakespeare, but for prose writers, the Book of Common Prayer is our fountainhead, or at least that’s how it seems to me.
The CofE is what you might call a ‘broad church.’ My step-daughter, who works for the Church, disapproves of my particular take on it all, as I describe myself as a cultural Christian, and an adherent of the movement known as The Sea of Faith. Broad, yes, but lots of people in the Church see the Sea of Faith as a step too far. Nevertheless, that is where I position myself; and for good or ill, I take a great deal of comfort from going to church at various moments – and today was one.
Try as I might, I can’t reconcile the dumbass cutesy-pie Americanisation of Hallowe’en with the deep seriousness of death, of mourning, of the human understanding of the unknown and unknowable. For millenia, humankind has lit fires at this time of year to mark the darkening of the year, and held ceremonies to mark the passing of life. And what we have now is the commodification of this profound, recurring moment in our turning world.
Unfashionably, I have always hated horror films, which seem to me a celebration of murder, violence against women, and genocide. We live in a world full of horror, the symbol and apotheosis of which, in the lifetime of my parents, is the Nazi Holocaust. I never understood why we need to celebrate horror, to treat it as a game for children, in a world where it stalks our steps.
Today, I cried in church; sang some great hymns, and thought of how much I miss, and will always miss, my old partner in crime. This probably makes me an un-fun kinda guy. Fun is not always the appropriate response to everything.