This ecumenical service for all people affected by cancer – sufferers, family members, friends – is always a quietly emotional yet supportive service. This year it took place on 19 October at Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Cardonald, hosted by Glasgow Churches Together and supported musically by the St Mungo Singers.
Canon David Wallace welcomed the congregation, saying that scarcely anyone in our society today is not affected by cancer, through personal experience or knowing someone suffering from the disease. He invited those present to come forward, if they wished, to light a candle in front of the altar and place a card with their prayer intentions for loved ones in baskets there. The prayer cards will be kept in the church and those intentions prayed for throughout the year.
Harp music accompanied the quiet restrained line of people as they made their way, with their thoughts and prayers, to the cross of candles at the sanctuary. When the candles were lit, Canon David led the lovely opening prayer which included the words:
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.
The opening introit, I am the light of the World, the first reading from Ephesians 3:14-21, the Psalm 115 with its response I will walk in the presence of God, and the Gospel reading from Matthew 6:25-34 all echoed this theme of hope.
Rev. Leslie Edge, Chaplain to the Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice which is located in the neighbouring Bellahouston Park,in his reflection took up a different but related aspect of the approach to cancer – that of worry. Our age is often described as one of anxiety when we have so much to worry about in our personal circumstances and in our world. Jesus’ response, he said, was a simple “don’t worry”. The Gospel reading showed that he wanted us to be set free from worry, to remember God is our Father.
He quoted Mahatma Gandhi “Be ashamed to be worried if you have faith”. We are precious to God, his adopted children, and we are always wanted by Him and matter to Him. We need to have faith in God and Jesus. He finished with a comparison of worry to a glass of water – the longer we hold it, the heavier it becomes, so let it go and have trust.
The choir then led the congregation in John Bell’s beautiful and appropriate hymn We cannot measure how you heal or answer every suff’rer’s prayer.
An insight into the work of the Hospice followed. Gillian Sherwood, Clinical Director, explained the many and varied services the Hospice provides. She was open about the challenges that Covid had brought in terms of strain, grief and loss, and the joy of being able to come together at this service. She described the Hospice as very much part of the community and open to it, reaching out with its services.
The service ended with prayers of intercession for cancer sufferers, their loved ones, carers, and those working in research for new treatments. The congregation then joined in the saying of the Lord’s Prayer, the singing of John Newman’s Lead, Kindly Light and the concluding prayer which was Pause for Hope’s inspiring prayer:-
God our Father,
We pray that cancer will not cripple love,
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.
The choir sang John Leland’s prayer Lord, keep us safe this night to lead into the final blessing by the clergy present. The congregation was then invited into the parish hall for refreshments before they went on their way.