“What have you been doing at school today?”
“We’ve been resurrecting dead bodies.”
Actually, the children of Crich Church of England Infants School had been helping Bishop Jan consecrate the new parish graveyard below the church.
On a perfect February afternoon with a pure blue sky and low winter sunlight pouring down the hill, the gathering of children and adults had witnessed an ancient rite which none had seen before nor were likely to see again.
Bishop Jan in her full regalia, complete with Doc Martens, first fielded such questions as ‘Why are you dressed like that?’
Once such matters had been cleared up she explained the nature of the ritual, held her crook aloft and announced she was a chief shepherd.
The children were encouraged to answer with a few bleats but from then on they were drawn into the beauty and the sacredness of the proceedings.
Bishop Jan led the procession along the hedgerows reciting psalms and pausing at each corner to mark a solemn cross in the wet grass.
Where the gas main bisected the burial ground the gathering was informed that this stretch could not be consecrated, because it might be necessary one day to disturb the pipeline.
The children, silent and respectful, carefully picked their way around the unhallowed plot.
At the conclusion, the Registrar in her wig and gown read the declaration and Bishop Jan told the children that this was now a place where the villagers could lie safe and at rest in Jesus.
And for a few minutes, the children and all the gathering stood quietly in that glorious winter sunlight and thought about the past and the present and the future and the eternal rest that Jesus gives.
Then Bishop Jan led her flock up the lane and into the church for drinks and cake.
Martyn Offord, Churchwarden, Crich St Mary.