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RIP – Jennie CSF

Sister Jennie CSF

From the sermon preached at her funeral by

Hilary CSF


In our Office book there is an Office of Commendation for whenever we hear the news of the death of a member of community.  One of the prayers begins: ‘O God, who brought us to birth and in whose arms we die: in our grief and shock contain and comfort us…’  The phrase ‘in our grief and shock’ has been echoing round in my head as I think of the past few weeks.  Certainly shock has been there!  On February 20th Jennie was cook for the day; on the 21st she went to the doctor, then to the hospital and didn’t return until we welcomed her back last night for this service.  There is grief too as we, and so many others, will miss her severely.  Reading the many messages we have received in the last few days, what stands out is the warmth of the welcome she extended to so many people over the years, and her gift of friendship.

When Jennie came to CSF fromGuernsey, she was very homesick for the island and her friends there.  But one of her strong characteristics was ‘stickability’: faithfulness to what she had undertaken, and in particular to her promise to God.  Life wasn’t easy for her, and at times she made it more difficult both for herself and for others!  She could be very irritating in her self-deprecation, such that I once gave her a quotation from John Austin Baker the import of which was that always to think badly of oneself was the height of egotism, a denial of the goodness of God’s creation of the person she was.  I mention that because although she was unhappy, even a little angry at the time, being Jennie she thought about it, and in my last visit to her before she moved into the hospice she reminded me of it and how it had influenced her journey of faith.

Jennie had a good brain.  Although she was so often slow to join in a discussion, when she did her clarity and depth of thought was obvious and we could only wish that in her early life she had been encouraged more to develop her gifts. The ward in Musgrove hospital was busy and noisy, and we talked about the fact that the hospice would be quieter and more peaceful.  Yes, said Jennie, I’ll be able to think.  And that’s why in the end our grief isn’t for Jennie herself.  She had made the decision that she didn’t want more treatment – “I’m not a thing to be experimented on – I’m a human being”. Psalm 139 with that statement ‘I thank you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made’ was very important for her and she asked for the psalm to be read several times in those last few days.  She hadn’t given up, she had let go into God and the change in her state of mind was obvious; her thought was in preparation to meet the One who had made her so fearfully and wonderfully.  She was not afraid, she had believed in and served a God of love and forgiveness and that faith remained and sustained her.  Reading the gospels Jesus shows us the true nature of God during his passion, when he is being ‘done to’, more I think than during his active ministry.  Just as Stephen mirrored Jesus’ forgiveness at the point of dying, so Jennie in her last days showed most clearly her steadfast faith hope and love for the One who loved her.

We all also rejoiced that her spark and sense of humour were evident – the little chuckle or giggle at herself or at what someone had said.  Occasionally she was teased about the fact that she had only two speeds: slow and slower.  Her sickness and death were uncommonly, perhaps uniquely, fast for her, which she herself recognised and we heard the giggle over that!

I’m sure all of us, even those who have known her for a very short time will have our own special memories of her.  But we’re not here just to reminisce about someone we loved.  We’re here for a threefold reason: yes to remember her and say goodbye, but more to give thanks to God for her life, for all that she has given us, and all that she has taught us about God and his love and what faithfulness to that entails.  And above all we’re here to give praise and thanks to God for the gift of life itself and the new life in the resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ from the dead.  For as we believe and affirm, we know that in Christ we have new life and we celebrate with Jennie that she has entered into that resurrection life.  St Paul wrote of ‘forgetting the past and reaching out for what is to come, of racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us in Christ Jesus; …. for us our homeland is in heaven’. Jennie has gone before us to that homeland, and will celebrate her anniversary of Life Profession on Sunday in the presence of him to whom she made her vows.

Jennie lived and prayed in the knowledge of and assurance that the God she had served in her earthly life would not let her down, that his promises were and are to be trusted.  Jesus said to the repentant thief, ‘today you will be in paradise with me’; he will I believe say that to us too as we approach our death and I have no doubt that he welcomed Jennie as she left the old house of her earthly body.

So we give thanks and praise to God for the gift of life and the assurance of eternal life; we thank him for Jennie and all that she has meant to us and to so many more people, and we commend her into his hands as we say “farewell”.

May she rest in peace and rise with Christ in glory.f