While attending a glorious concert at St. Philip’s In The Hills in early December, my friends and I saw a flier for a grief workshop at St. Philip’s. It was entitled “Rediscovering the Joy of the Holidays,” and was a morning of fellowship and mutual support for those who have suffered recent losses.
Six leaders, consisting of three deacons, a priest, and two retired priests, were there to support us in our grief prior to the difficult time of the holidays. We started out in one large group and then separated into smaller groups of five to six each, with two leaders assigned to each group. We each shared our losses, and cried our hearts out for our loved ones who were no longer present with us on this earth. The types of grief being expressed were so varied and deeply shared and it was very comforting to know that we were all there for one another, even though we had just met.
I have had seven deaths in my life in the 18 months, including my brother, Jack, and a dear friend and neighbor, David, who was only 38 years old when he lost his 10-month battle with lymphoma just over 4 months ago.
After sharing in our small groups, we moved into the Chapel, which holds about 50 people, and we were given small crystal “cross angel” ornaments, which we placed on the altar to be blessed. The clergy were behind the altar preparing the beautiful Eucharistic celebration of communion. Because I had mentioned in my small group that I was a minister, Brigid, one of the leaders, called me up to the altar to be with the other ordained ministers. I was very pleased to be included and it was quite a lovely experience as we seven shared communion among us before sharing the wafers and wine with the rest of the group.
After communion, we prayed together and spoke aloud prayers for those whom we had lost or those who we felt needed a healing touch.
We then lined up for the anointing of oil. The clergy met us one by one at the front of the altar and made the sign of the cross with the oil on our foreheads. Ruthie, my deacon, touched her forehead to mine, and I burst into tears as months and months of loss came pouring out of me. I immediately felt a lifting of my soul and spirit. At that time, we picked up our beautiful crystal angel crosses to complete the experience.
It was such a blessing to be called to St. Philip’s In The Hills Church that day, and I feel as if a heavy burden was lifted from my heart. I will be forever grateful for this experience and to the gracious leaders who volunteered their time to help us heal our pain.
—Rev. Kathryn (Karima) Williams, M. Div.