13 people from 8 MUA congregations gathered at Kingswood Meeting House to participate in a fascinating day about how to provide pastoral care for the bereaved. The day was led and organised by Rev. Ant Howe, minister of the Kingswood and Warwick congregations. Ant led the first session,which introduced us to the symptoms and process of grief, and underlined the fact that bereaved people are the largest community in the world. He explained that they need to talk about their loss, and suggested ways of encouraging this, and how to listen, and what cliches to avoid. He also suggested other ways in which members of a congregation might be able to support a bereaved person. He was followed by Wendy Hughes, a funeral director from C. Bastock Ltd, who gave us a fascinating insight into the scope of a funeral director’s work, and also explained about the process of arranging a funeral. This was followed by a shorter session, once again led by Ant, on how bereavement is dealt with at Kingswood.
After a short break for lunch, Ant had a wedding to conduct, so his Lay Assistant Diane Rutter, led us through some exercises including planning our own funerals, and talking about how we would react to particular scenarios, e.g. the death of a child, or a suicide. The final session of the day was led by Ron Dalley, organiser of Kingswood’s Support Group for the Bereaved. Ron lost his son just over a year ago, at the age of 22, and spoke movingly about his experience of grief and bereavement, and about how the group has helped him to work through the grieving process.
The atmosphere throughout the day was very special – participants shared their experiences of bereavement freely, and I think we all felt that it had been a hugely useful day, which would help us as members of MUA congregations to help others who have been bereaved.