While the COVID-19 pandemic has cost us much – in lives lost, in lives disrupted, in so many ways – it has also pushed churches to embrace the technology that many had not yet considered.
Thus, on Saturday I was able to ‘attend’ online the funeral of a friend and mentor, the Rev. Canon Ian Noseworthy, in Scarborough, ON. Like Ian, the service was deeply faithful to the resurrection hope of Christ, called on all present to attend to the call of the gospel to build justice in this life, and made us all laugh.
My favourite moment came after the sermon, during which the incumbent, the Rev. Andrew MacDonald, shared that during the worst of the pandemic lockdowns Ian (a retired priest who attended church there) had suggested that “When we all get back into the church building, we should sing the Hallelujah Chorus together.”
So we did.
Only the choir had rehearsed. Some in the congregation had doubtless sung it before. Yet while there were apparently scores scattered throughout the pews, most present (including me on the couch at home in Mercier) simply followed the incumbent’s instructions: “Sing the parts you know! Sing the parts you think you know! Sing with gusto and with joy because that’s how Ian would’ve wanted it – and that’s how our Lord wants it too!”
It was gloriously hilarious, and at times it felt like no one knew where we were, and we laughed together (even across the internet miles) and we rejoiced together. It sounded much like what would happen if one of Ian’s hometown Newfoundland kitchen parties had decided to sing Handel. It was wonderful.
Which came back to me the other morning as I again sat on my couch at home in Mercier to participate virtually in a funeral – this time with millions of others around the globe.
In many ways, the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II could not have been more different from the funeral for my friend Ian. The music was sublime – even the congregational hymns sung note-perfect. Both Anglican liturgies, one using the ancient Book of Common Prayer, one using the contemporary language we speak today. At once there were sad smiles of remembrance, at the other shared uproarious laughter and weeping. At one, the dignitaries of the world; at the other, simply friends and family and loved ones.
In both celebrations, as different as they were, there was at the root a remembrance and celebration of a life that honoured Christ. An acknowledgement of dedication to others, of service to the world, of discipleship. And an implicit calling for those of us participating, in person or virtually, to live the same way.
Funerals will always be hard. Yet a Christian funeral should also bring a reminder of the invitation to live lives of faith and commitment, and of the sure and certain hope of the resurrection in Christ.
Well done, good and faithful servants. Enter now into the joy of your Lord.
Director of Pastoral Studies
This message was written by Heather McCance for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community.