I learnt this week that the custom of celebrating All Saints Day on the first day of November was first developed by Christians in the British Isles at some point in the 9th century (and only later adopted by the Pope). This is an important festival in the Church’s calendar because it gives us an opportunity to look back appropriately upon the lives of those who have gone before us in the faith; and it also gives us an outlet for our own personal grief and mourning.
Here in the Itchen Valley we will be celebrating this important festival in a couple of ways:
Sunday 31 October
On Sunday 31 October we will celebrate All Saints Day (one day in advance!) at our 10.00am Parish Communion in St Mary’s Easton.
Our visiting celebrant, Revd Warwick Heathcote (a retired Anglican clergyman, originally from South Africa) will preach on the lectionary readings appointed for All Saints Day. And Gerry Stacey, our Licensed Lay Minster, will lead the intercessions—which will include his reading out the names of any loved ones that parishioners would like to be held in remembrance by us as a gathered congregation.
If you would like to submit a name, please contact Beccy Clark on firstname.lastname@example.org. But, if you forget, don’t worry, since names submitted ‘at the door’ will also be added to the list on the day.
Monday 1 November
On All Saints Day itself, there will be a slightly different opportunity to remember loved ones: St Swithun’s church in Martyr Worthy will be open for a time of silent prayer from 5.15-5.45pm.
There will be candles already lit in the chancel and you are welcome to come and light further candles in memory of individuals whom you are commemorating. With the possibility of some quiet choral music in the background, we hope this will create a quiet ambience for your own personal reflection and prayer.
Light in the darkness
As a Christian community we are acutely aware that the last 18 months have been a time of real difficulty and loss for so many. Let’s be praying that both these occasions will prove a real comfort and consolation for many. So please be considering not only how you might best observe All Saints Day this year but also if there are friends or neighbours to whom you could commend either of these events.
Speaking for myself in the light of my own mother’s death on Wed 13 October, I am hearing in fresh ways the words of Jesus right now: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). That comfort ultimately derives from the glorious resurrection of Jesus on Easter Day, through which Christ conquered the grave once and for all. So let’s pray that many will be able to bring a little foretaste of Easter’s joy into the darker days approaching us in November.
Revd Peter Walker