Virtual Candlelight Vigils: Grief and gratitude in times of COVID-19

Candlelight Vigil by Rosalie Kuyvenhoven, London based celebrant
“Carrying a candle from one little place of shelter to another is an act of love.”
– Jan Sutch Picard

Monday 27th April I started a series of virtual Candlelight Vigils to remember people who have died and support the living. In a simple and non-religious ceremony people are invited to light a candle for someone they are holding in their thoughts.

The next Vigils are every fortnight, starting 4th May, from 8-8.30pm BST. If you’d like to join, please book here.

Below the script of the first Vigil.

1. Introduction

Welcome to our Candlelight Vigil. 

A Vigil is a time of watchful attention when life is uncertain and the future is unknown.

We are living in unsettling times. All of us are affected by the current pandemic and we are grieving a variety of losses. You may mourn the death of someone dear to you. Perhaps you haven’t had the chance to say your farewells or attend their funeral. You may also mourn the loss of work, or a special event that can’t go ahead as planned. You may miss your family and friends, an activity, the freedom to do the things you enjoy so much. You may even mourn your own self – a loss of identity in these times where your life has been turned upside down and nothing seems certain. 

There are also signs of light and hope. Communities gather to support vulnerable neighbours. Spring is doing its wondrous thing. Children paint rainbows on windows.

This Vigil provides a space to be present with our grief. It is also a space to give thanks. Thanks to someone who has been a support, or something that has given solace and made you happy.  

We start this vigil three deep breaths. You may close your eyes, or leave them open. After you have taken your breaths, take a brief moment to check how you feel.

2. Candle lighting

I am now lighting three candles. One is for all the people who have died. One for people who are grieving, in pain, or worried about their health and wellbeing. One for the people who lit up the lives of others with kindness, compassion and care.

May these lights illuminate the darkness of this evening and bring comfort to all who need it. 

[lighting of three candles]

3. Individual candle lighting

You may all have one or more specific people you are holding in your thoughts right now. 

If you have brought a candle you will be invited to light this and share with us the name of your person and why you would like to hold them tonight in this space. If you have brought a poem or a reading you may read this too at this moment.

[participants light their candles]

4. Poem

Carrying A Candle
by Jan Sutch Pickard

Carrying a candle
from one little place of shelter
to another
is an act of love.

To move through the huge
and hungry darkness, step by step,
against the invisible wind
that blows forever around the world,
carrying a candle,
is an act of foolhardy hope.

Surely it will be blown out:
the wind is contemptuous,
the darkness cannot comprehend it.
How much light can this tiny flame shed
on all the great issues of the day?
It is as helpless as a newborn child.
Look how the human hand,
That cradles it, has become translucent:
Fragile and beautiful, foolish and loving,
Step by step.

The wind is stronger than this hand,
And the darkness infinite
Around this tiny here-and-now flame
that wavers, but keeps burning:
carried with such care
through an uncaring world
from one little place of shelter to another.
An act of love.

The light shines in the darkness
And the darkness can never put it out.

5. Closing words and blessing

Having come together in this Candlelight Vigil for the people we are remembering and holding in our thoughts we now prepare to return to our daily lives.  If you wish you may place your hands over your hearts as we part with the following words:

May we remember that love is not limited by time and space

May we be aware of the invisible bonds of love that surround and protect our beloveds, wherever they may be

May we all be held in the same loving embrace

May you go blessed, sheltered and protected

May the light we shared guide, calm, console and renew you.

You may now blow out your candle or keep your candle burning until you go to sleep. 

Thanks for being here today. Stay safe. 

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