The prison chaplains yesterday were talking about creating rituals around grief and death in prisons. it was a timely conversation for me. i was there just to listen to them – i always come away realising how much i have to learn.

There are lots of words that we put around ‘leadership’ in alternative worship – concepts like curators and architects. On the way home yesterday i was thinking about how we’d describe the role of the worship ‘leader’ in rituals around grief and dying. I wonder if it’s best captured in the concept of being a midwife. We’re not there to make hope happen, to say or do things that will help people ‘get over it’. We’re not there to convince people that it will all be ok. We’re not there to intervene, or to control the process. We’re there – like the best midwife at a birth – to set the space, to make it safe for those who have no idea how to get through the next day but who also know that the pain they are enduring is inevitable and unavoidable, to be ready with specialist help should it all begin to go pear shaped, to have the intuition and wisdom to say when it’s best to just breathe and when it’s time to push through the pain. How all that happens is different for every birth, of course, just as the life which emerges at the end is different for every person.