You might not think that a service for those affected by cancer could be a very positive experience, even one entitled Pause for Hope, but nothing could be further from the truth. The ecumenical service at St. Teresa’s Possilpark was warm, welcoming, at moments funny and above all positively hopeful. Much of that was down to the inspiring input of Fr. Tommy Hendry, the Parish Priest, who himself has cancer.
After the opening hymn Be still for the Presence of the Lord with its encouraging 3rd verse, those present were invited to light a candle for themselves or someone they knew who had cancer or in memory of someone lost to cancer. As Fr. Tommy said, so many in our community are affected by cancer, we need to take time to pause and pray.
After the candles were in place, the opening prayer was said:-
God, our loving Father, the candles we have lit represent each and every one of us whose lives have been touched and changed forever by cancer. Their light also reminds us of Jesus Christ, you Son, who is the light of the world and the light in our darkness.
Give us, we pray, comfort in our anxiety and fear, courage and strength in our suffering, patience and compassion in our caring, consolation in our grieving, but above all, give us hope, now and always, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
The St Mungo Singers then sang Noel Donnelly’s lovely Healing Song – Come with your healing, Lord, come and save us.
Fr. Tommy gave the homily. He began by conveying regards from Professor Ray Donnelly who initiated the Pause for Hope services when in the course of his work as a surgeon he recognised the need to give thought to God and the spiritual side of the experience of cancer, as well as the medical aspects. Fr. Tommy also asked those present to keep in mind Professor Donnelly’s brother, Dr Noel Donnelly, who was recovering from an operation.
He brought a smile to faces as he recalled waking up one evening, having fallen asleep in front of the TV, to hear someone talking about dogs and how they depended on people. This, he reflected, was true for us in the sense that we too depend on someone greater than ourselves. The readings for the service (1Peter 1: I John 1 and Matthew 5 (the Beatitudes)) gave us the comfort and hope that we are part of something, a reminder of the love of God for us and a positive way of thinking of illness – that we are under the protection of God.
Fr Tommy spoke from his own experience – he had been treated with dignity and kindness, as a human being and listened to. The same, he said, is true of God. You may feel on your own with cancer but God is there with you.
The music of the service felt so appropriate: Psalm 138 with its refrain of “I thank you for the wonder of my being”; John Bell’s “We cannot measure how you heal or answer every suff’rer’s prayer”; Liam Lawton’s beautiful anthem “The Cloud’s Veil” with its repeated line “God is by my side” in particular.
A collection was taken up to be shared among the Children’s Hospice, Marie Curie and Pause for Hope. Intercessions were prayed for cancers sufferersand their families, for carers and researchers, and for local and national governments and health boards. The intercessions ended with the Lord’s Prayer and the lovely Pause for Hope Prayer:
Will not shatter hope, will not corrode faith
Will not eat away peace, will not destroy confidence
Will not kill friendship, will not shut out memories
Will not silence courage, will not invade the soul.
We believe that cancer cannot reduce eternal life
Quench the Spirit or lessen the power of the Resurrection..
After the service, the parish provided a beautiful spread – a fitting end to an uplifting event.