If you’re out in Soho on a Saturday night chances are, as you reel from one nightspot to another, that a fresh-faced young person will greet you with the somewhat discordant question, “Would you like to light a candle in a church?”
Being idealists, these gentle, big-eyed souls are used to being rebuffed by all manner of derision, indifference and obscenity. But they keep going because they know that, sooner or later, someone’s going to say yes.
When they do, they are conducted to St Patrick’s church where they duly light their candle and either sit in the calm for a bit or even read a bit of scripture. They pop in for a moment, all sorts of people, some maybe for a bit of a laugh, but they often stay for up to an hour. By the end of a typical evening, more than 300 candles are dancing and flickering.
Those who come are not sold religion. The space is as soothing for atheists as it is for holy folk. For them the church is a haven of serenity, somewhere to enjoy a time out from bustle.
The project is called Nightfever. It started in Germany in 2005 and is catching on over here.
You know where I’m going with this, don’t you?
Yes, let’s take it further. What a good idea it would be if churches of all denominations were to offer this invitation to bereaved people: Would you like to come inside and light a candle in memory of someone in our church?
Funeral directors could offer the same invitation.
And have you noticed how crematoria are happy to offer you somewhere to stash your flowers, but nowhere to light a candle? They should do it too.
Yes, yes, fire risks, terribly dangerous, insurers won’t have it, etc.
But if churches can, crems and undertakers can. Do it. Lighting a candle in memory of someone who has died is a powerful thing to do. And there is fellowship in all those dancing flames.