Kia ora te whānau! He mihi arohanui ki a koutou katoa!
Following the rigours of Holy Week and the Triduum, I made a somewhat facetious remark to a parishioner to the effect that, ‘no one is allowed to die in the parish for the next two weeks.’ In the following two days, sadly, 3 parishioners died. One tragically at work and two senior and beloved kaumātua in their late 80s. While resolved never to make that remark again, I could not avoid the responsibilities of a vicar, which are, of course, to be a rock of comfort and kindness, while planning funerals with the respective families, negotiating with funeral directors and dealing with the personal grief that accompanies the death of those whom you have come to love.
A challenge of a different order came when I awoke last Saturday to the news that the Duke of Edinburgh had died. His death at 99, following protracted bouts of illness came as no surprise. Further, despite his global renown, he was someone who lived on the other side of the world, and whom I had never met, let alone known. So why was I reduced to tears? The answer, in part lies in what his death represents and teaches.
Firstly, every death matters—and matters to God—whether that of a global phenomenon like Prince Philip, or of a humble, gracious, generous stalwart Anglican Christian in the relative obscurity of a small country congregation. Their contributions to the world may vary in magnitude but not in significance.
Secondly, when one person dies it can ‘touch off’ the grief we have over the loss of another life, possession, occupation, opportunity or facility. This is okay. It is even a kind of gift from the recently deceased, as their departure helps us to negotiate the course of the griefs we already hold. In my case, tears for The Duke of Edinburgh were more likely tears for the departed parishioners whom I greatly loved and will sorely miss.
Finally, every death casts us back onto the mercy and comfort of God, and especially in this season of Easter. They remind us that God is the conqueror of death and the giver of a new order of life, the like of which we who continue in this earthly existence, cannot begin to imagine.
Please pray for our Queen and her family; pray also for each other and yourselves as you negotiate your own grief, but do so in the light of the empty tomb!
Alleluia, Christ is Risen!

Mark Barlow

Vicar of Lincoln and Deputy Vicar General