An all-age prayer for death and loss

In this second article on acknowledging loss in all-age church communities, Joanna Collicutt and Martyn Payne, contributors to Seriously Messy: Making space for families to talk together about death and life, offer an simple spoken prayer with actions that take us from a place of sorrow to a place of hope.

5 December 2021

An interactive prayer for a time of goodbyes

In Seriously Messy, there is a chapter of theological reflection on ‘saying goodbye and hello’, and a plan for an intergenerational session that explores this theme through activities and celebration, such as Messy Church. The liturgy includes a suggested prayer activity for a short service. It picks up on the theme of waving, which we introduced in the first of our articles on talking about death and loss in an all-age setting.

Waving creates connection

Waving is a widely recognised piece of sign language that says, ‘Look, I am here!’ It is a way of bridging the gap between people. It communicates the hope of reunion, signals that reunion from a distance, and makes parting less brutal. It can convey sadness, hope and joy, and so usefully ‘carry’ our feelings around our experience of both death and life.

‘When God offers us salvation, it is as if he is waving hello.’

The word ‘hello’ is connected with health and wholeness. So when God offers us healing and salvation, it is as if he is waving ‘hello’.

Waving to bless

In a similar way, waving goodbye can be seen as a kind of prayer. ‘Goodbye’ is an old English contraction of the phrase ‘God be with you’. When we finally wave ‘goodbye’ to someone we love, we are blessing them with the prayer that God will be with them (and us) until we all meet again.

‘Waving goodbye can be seen as a kind of prayer.’

An interactive ‘waving’ prayer for hellos and goodbyes

In Messy Church we look for creative ways to engage all ages and abilities in the service. One easy way to do this is to include gestures in prayers and stories. This prayer picks up on the idea of waving, to help us recognise loss and understand that ‘goodbyes’ and ‘hellos’ can be part of the same journey towards our Heavenly Father.

Let’s use waving hello and goodbye as part of our time of prayer together:

We wave hello [encourage everyone to wave hello] to those we meet, wishing them good health and the very best in life.

We wave goodbye [encourage everyone to wave goodbye] to those who leave, wishing them God-speed and God’s presence on their journey.

We wave hello [encourage everyone to wave hello] to each new life that is born, wishing them the best of health and happiness.

We wave goodbye [encourage everyone to wave goodbye] to those who die, trusting that God will be with him.

We wave goodbye [encourage everyone to wave goodbye again] but at the same time God waves hello [encourage everyone to wave hello again], welcoming them into heaven.

One day we will wave hello again [encourage everyone to wave hello] to those we love because they have found their own hello in heaven.

God can turn all our goodbyes into hellos because of God’s great love for us.

Waving in faith

So please don’t overlook the goodbyes that may need to be ‘waved’ once your church family is fully back together again. They are a powerful way of affirming our faith that, in the reality of loss and uncertainty, ‘neither death, nor life… nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (from Romans 8:38–39).

More on acknowledging death and loss with all ages

Reflecting their combined years of experience, in Addressing death and bereavement in all-age gatherings, Martyn Payne and Joanna Collicutt offer wise advice for dealing with the topic sensitively and helpfully in all-age, including a free download – ‘Twelve guidelines for talking about death with children’.

Joanna Collicutt

Revd Dr Joanna Collicutt is a supernumerary fellow at Harris Manchester College, an associate priest in an Oxfordshire parish, and an honorary canon of Christ Church Cathedral.

Martyn Payne

Before retiring in 2017, Martyn Payne was one of BRF’s Messy Church team. He has a background in Bible storytelling and leading all-age worship and is passionate about the blessing that comes when generations explore faith together. Martyn Payne is BRF’s volunteer prayer advocate and author of the BRF Prayer Diary.

When families experience bereavement and loss, it can be hard for the wider church community to know how best to support them. This valuable book offers four approaches to talking about death and life, with all ages, in a safe and supportive setting. Available as a pdf download, in paperback and as an ebook.