My first "real job" was as a program director with a YWCA. One of my colleagues was Katie, the aquatic director. She was down home country, a farmer's wife, mother of four boys with a heart of gold and an infectious laugh. She was a bright spot while I was in that job that didn't suit me well (but from which I learned a LOT!), and a good friend.
We stayed in touch for a number of years after my "Y" days were over, and then one year, shortly after the new year, I had a letter from her husband letting me know that they had lost Katie to breast cancer just before Christmas. Katie was my first friend to be stolen from the world by breast cancer.
I have been fortunate that most of my experience with that beast has been with survivors. Ken has not been as lucky. His late wife died from a recurrence of it. In whatever way breast cancer steals its way into the bodies and lives of women, all of us are touched by it one way or another.
October is breast cancer awareness month. It has been an idea and dream of mine for a while to hold a worship service in that month that honors the women of our lives who have walked that road. I want to remember those who have gone and celebrate with survivors. I want the church to bless that sisterhood and the people who are entwined in the experience.
I've been turning over in my mind ways to make the service meaningful, and I recalled a glorious experience I had at St. John the Divine while chaperoning some youth during a Night Watch program. Worshiping at the high altar at midnight, each of were given long, thin tapers. At some point we lit the candles and stuck them into a container full of sand, and then after the homily we each took a candle from the sand and went out into the darkness of the church to pray. It was an incredible sight to watch those points of light move out and disperse in the darkness. I'm thinking that for this occasion of remembrance and celebration members of the congregation could bring lit tapers to the altar and place them in a container of sand, so that the cluster of light becomes brilliant. The lights would dim to contrast with the lives represented by that light, then after a blessing the worshipers would be dismissed.
Yes? Maybe? Thoughts? And what else needs to be part of this? I plan to use the Order for Evening from The Book of Common Prayer, and include a time of prayer during which the names of those lost may be raised up. Does anyone know of resources/liturgies for this type of service? What music is appropriate and would be familiar to a largely Baptist community? And in the midst of a very dominant Christian community, I want to be sensitive to other traditions that may be present.
In memory of those we love and have lost...