Govan Salvation Army Band play for the opening of the service

Pause for Hope may seem a strange title for a service for people affected by cancer – patients, families, friends – but it reminds us of an important point, that as Christians we face this illness with firm hope that we are not alone in this situation and that there is a future beyond it.  The title also gently reminds us all that it is good to take time out to think and pray.

This year, Glasgow Churches Together’s ecumenical service was hosted by the Salvation Army at their lovely Community Church in Govan, where their church band and singers joined the St Mungo Singers in providing the music for the service.

After the welcome by Major Helen Scholfield of the Govan Community Church and the scripture readings, including Psalm 68  with  its fitting opening line of verse 2 –In your love, Lord, answer me, with your help that never fails –  and the Gospel reading of the healing of the woman with the haemorrhage, Captain Emma Heal gave a very personal and moving reflection on the story of her friend of many years, Susan.

Her friend, Susan had only ever wanted to be a mum and  she had had three children.  She and Emma kept in touch even after Emma moved to Scotland with the Salvation Army.  Then Susan found a lump in her breast, a large tumour.  She underwent treatment and her children became her carers.  She experienced further symptoms later but diagnosis and treatment were delayed by Covid lockdown and by the time she got a scan, the cancer was too advanced.  Susan died at 39, and Emma and her husband drove down and brought Susan’s children home with them, and later adopted them.

Emma admitted that, yes, there was darkness in this tragic story but there had  also been light from the many kindnesses of people around them.  She saw God in people’s actions – “Godincidences” as she called them,  She didn’t pretend to know why Susan had died and she wouldn’t understand this side of eternity but she invited everyone to look for the beams of light, the Godincidences, in the difficulties of life.

The hymn which followed – In Christ alone my hope is found –  had been chosen by Emma as it had been one of the hymns at Susan’s funeral, and it was sung by all present with wholehearted commitment.

The Salvation Army choristers sing as the candles are lit

As the congregation had gathered, they had been given a small candle, a card on which to write the names of people for whom they wished to pray, and a little prayer card to keep.  The candles were now lit and placed at the front of the sanctuary with the cards.  The cards would remain there for those named on them to be kept in the prayers of the Church community for the coming year.

After prayers for those suffering from cancer, their relatives and friends, those who had lost loved ones to the disease, and for the nurses and doctors treating cancer patients, and researchers working for cures, a collection for the Brain Tumour charity was taken up.

The service finished with a blessing both spoken and sung, and John Bell and Graham Maule’s beautiful hymn We Cannot Measure how You Heal or Answer every Suff’rer’s Prayer. After the service, there was the opportunity to talk over a cup of tea in the Church café.