Last week I attended the funeral of the late Bob Cross, Churchwarden for many years at the Cross & Stable Church, Downs Barn , and also for Stantonbury and Willen Ecumenical Partnership (SEP) as a parish. Bob was also a member of Deanery Synod for many years, and through that became a personal friend and a source of encouragement.

Thanks must go to Rev Dr Sam Muthuveloe, recently licensed as Minister at the Cross and Stable Church, and also to Rev Peter Green, retired minister and also member for retired clergy on Deanery Synod, for arranging and leading the service, which was both moving and uplifting, and recognised the manifold ways in which Bob had sustained and influenced the congregation and the partnership over a great many years, as well as personally.

Different things will move different people, but the one of the things that stood out for me was the way in which Peter turned to coffin and personally thanked Bob at the end of each of the points he made. It was a moving tribute to their deep and abiding friendship and drew in those present to make it a communal offering of thanks for a life well-lived.

Dr Sam’s explanation of the reasons for coming together for a funeral service was something I had not actually heard in a service before, and I felt was of enormous value and comfort to the family and mourners alike, and gave everyone something to think about, or hang on to, in days to come, particularly the emphasis on grieving.

Bob’s brother Jim decided to speak only of the way in which Bob had had a major impact on his life, starting at an early age when their father left to fight in the war. I don’t think I was alone in wishing he had had time and opportunity to tell us more, and this is something I feel is only just starting to change compared to other countries I have lived in, where opportunities besides the funeral service and wake for coming together to remember and reminisce are a valuable part of the grieving process.

I was startled and fascinated in equal measure to hear about how Bob and Jim learned how to shoot a real gun – at ages 6 and 4 respectively (relating this immediately to my own grandson who is 4 years old!). I never knew that Bob went to Sandhurst, and through the eyes of his family saw what a successful and amazing life he’d led. However, Bob’s success was hardly surprising in light of what else we learned, which was of the courageous way in which, aged only 6, Bob protected his little brother by standing up to his grandfather for what he felt was right. That was the one thing which spoke to me of the way Bob lived his life: with courage, fortitude and integrity.

Bishop Steven encourages us through the Common Vision process to learn to listen to God and to one another to become the kind of Church we are called to be: more contemplative, more compassionate and more courageous. I see many examples of the wonderful ways people express compassion for one another in their daily lives, and there seems to be a greater sense of the value of contemplation in listening to God and to one another in a world filled with loneliness, increased isolation and mental health distress. The call to be courageous, to stand firm for what you believe in no matter what the personal cost, was demonstrated by Jesus and led to the cross. From a very early age Bob showed he was not afraid to live his life with that kind of courage.

Rest in peace Bob, knowing you have run the good race. You will be greatly missed.

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