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.’  I describe myself as a Christian, one who came to faith through an interest the movement known as The Sea of Faith. Lots of people in the Church see the Sea of Faith as a step too far. Nevertheless, that is where I started from, though my position has changed over time. These days, I’m more Modern Church. 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.


3 Responses

  1. Bernie Bell says:

    I’ve only just learnt how to do this….this is something I sent to someone, this year, around the time of ……whatever you like to call it…………………

    I’m angered/saddened/ annoyed by what Halloween has become in popular culture. The whole ‘boogy-boo’ idea, is against what I know of those who have passed. Just because a person is dead, they don’t immediately become ….horrific. If they were horrid in life, they are likely to be horrid in death, until/if they learn to be otherwise.
    When I was a child, and a young person, we used to bob for apples, and have little parties, in our houses. The whole ‘trick or treat’ thing is an American import, which has got completely out of hand in recent years.

    I dislike both how the original meaning, has been perverted by popular culture, and also, this modern business of trick or treat rather than marking a celebration of a time of change, of life passing and renewed life, which is what it means, to me.
    Trick or treat, didn’t used to be so bad. When I lived in Wales, the local children would call round, and I would give them sweeties. Now. It’s seen as a licence to be naughty, and destructive, and that’s not what it is.

    And……………………….written early November, 2011

    The weirdy Samhain stuff, yes, well, …………………………
    The stuff about looking back at my life, and peoples lives, life as it is now, and looking ahead to what’s, possibly , to come. I’d been very much aware of it not just being one night ( Halloween), but more a time of year.
    A lot of stuff, went on, around what’s called Halloween, this year, for me, which gave me a stronger awareness of what this time of year, is about. Even what I found myself doing, in the garden, fitted, though I wasn’t really aware of it. We’ve had the meadow, strimmed and mown, and ‘put to bed’ for the winter, just waiting to burst into life again. I’ve been planting daffodils like nobody’s business, daffodils, little bits of sunshine that they are. We went to the Rendall Harvest Home on Friday – end of the harvest, end of the ‘light’ time of year, going into the ‘dark’ time of year. Only dark, in terms of shortage of light, nothing else ‘dark’ about it, at all, a wonderful time. Last couple of weeks, I’ve found myself going out just as the light goes, and wandering around the garden, and just standing and looking around me, at how all the different places and pieces of the garden and landscape, fit together. Lovely. Taking in the feel of it, the light, the smells, the sounds, watching all the birds, wheeling about. Brilliant. It’s all there, for those who keep their eyes and ears and senses open, all six of them!
    Thing is, also, the festivals are often seen as Celtic, whereas what I was feeling, felt like it went way, way, back, before the Celts, same times of year, same significant day, or days, but the folk then, would have called them something different. I just go with the flow, go with what’s happening, don’t worry about putting names on it. It all felt very odd, and I didn’t know why, but I just work with it, and see what comes out of it, and through it, in this case, a greater understanding, for me, of the time of year.
    Times of our life, Pam, times of our life, and Times of Life, and ALL SORTS! Isn’t life just a GAS?
    Here’s to Good Times, and clearer heads!
    One love

  2. Em says:

    To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.

    It’s not easy though is it. 🙁

  3. Dave evans says:

    Churches (and graveyards) are wonderful places to go. I have always thought that even if religion was banned, they should still keep the churches so you can go and contemplate in them. Graveyards are just wonderful, they make laugh, cry, sigh, chuckle and feel ashamed all in one go.
    I was supervising community payback with a bunch of lads once cleaning a graveyard and it was inspiring. They turned up surly and resentful, but by the end of the day they asked if they could come back and work the same graveyard. Little babies and their mummies died in childbirth – how sad – you can’t contemplate it. An 11 year old girl – murdered. An 80 year old man, served proudly as legionnaire in the French foreign legion – imagine him doing that slow march singing le boudaine! A spitfire pilot died 1941 aged 21 – wow – one of the few here beneath our feet.
    An old woman aged 90. A loving wife to Fred, Albert, and Albert – God, she’s seen off 3 husbands!! – I wish I could have drunk in the same pubs as her!!
    Graveyards are fun!

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