These songs are not the result of a writing project. Indeed, none of these songs was intended for publication. It would be a foolish writer who sat down and decided that he or she should produce a collection of material for times of grieving, for the simple reason that no two deaths are the same, nor is their 'standard' behaviour which can be reflected in texts dispassionatelty produced.
Every death is different and, if we are concerned about pastoral care of the dying and bereft, there has to be a variety of resources appropriate to the occasion. Otherwise Psalm 23, Abide With Me, Amazing Grace and Thine Be The Glory have to provide catch-all consolation.
The death of someone who takes their life is very different from that of someone who dies happily in their nineties. The death of someone who has abused or offended others is different from that of a fond friend whose sudden demise was caused by an aneurism or a heart attack. The death of a child in the womb has little in common with that of people killed in a car crash.
And grieving is necessarilly different, reflecting sometimes relief, sometimes gratitude, sometimes puzzlement, sometimes anger.
All the songs in this collection are the result of engagement with the deaths of specific people or with texts which in situations of bereavement produced deep resonances. Some songs reflect the experience of bewildered people whose confidence and story I had the privilege to share. Some were written to lament or celebrate the passing of people I knew. Others are based on that enduring depository of spiritual wisdom which we call the psalms; yet others come from a more contemporay collection of text and tunes first sung by enslaved people.
The songs originally appeared in a book for congregational use entitled When Grief Is Raw.
This resulted in G.I.A., our North American publishers, suggesting that these songs might be arranged for a choral recording. It was with a great sense of privilige that I worked on this with the Cathedral Singers of Chicago and the late Pamela Warrick Smith, a sterling interpreter of African American spirituals and gospel songs.
G.I.A. further suggested that the recording might be accompanied by a book of short readings and reflections for people who were experiencing grief . This book and CD were available solely in North America until SPCK enquired regarding the possibility of them being made available in Britain. My colleagues and I wish to thank those who have made this trans-Atantic edition possible.
The songs roughly follow the different classical stages of grieving and, of necessity, not every text will speak to or for every listener. But it is our hope that in these songs of experience there may be resonances which enable people to feel held, understood and accompanied in their grief by the One both calls us into being and welcomes us into our ultimate home.