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Yesterday at Southwark Cathedral a Service of Thanksgiving was held for Doorkins Magnificat, a feline friend of the Cathedral community, who died a month ago. A stray from Burough Market, this little cat had wandered over to the neighbouring Cathedral courtyard back in 2008, was offered food by the vergers, and soon decided to make her home in the Cathedral itself. She became a much loved member of Southwark Cathedral’s community, had a children’s book written telling her story, met the Queen, and gained a following around the entire world.

Dean Andrew Nunn explained why the decision was made to take the unusual step of honouring a cat with a Service of Thanksgiving. The story of Doorkins’ life had meaning beyond the simple narrative of a cat finding a new home. She had sought and found sanctuary in a church. “She arrived, she entered and we made her welcome. People concluded that if this little cat is welcome, maybe I am too,” Nunn said.

But, a Thanksgiving Service for a cat? Really? ‘What has been really powerful have been the comments from people who have needed to grieve,’ explained the Dean. ‘In these times, people are grieving for so much. Funerals have been restricted, it’s been odd for the way we usually grieve. There’s a rise in the infection rate... the tragedy of the family who drowned in the Channel… Grief doesn’t necessarily come when you want it. With this Thanksgiving Service, people have been able to cry and weep. It’s right for the Church to hold that.’

Such grief is undoubtedly what Noah felt when, in last week’s sedra, he looked out from his ark over an earth submerged by floods, and experienced the sense of loss of the world he and humanity had known. It is the grief many of us are feeling as we experience the loss of loved ones, the loss of employment, the loss of our lives as we knew them pre-Covid.

The Thanksgiving Service for Doorkins Magnificat, a little cat who was so loved by so many people, provided not only a sacred space for expressing grief, but also an opportunity for comfort, for support and for celebration of the love that makes life worthwhile. When Noah eventually reached dry land, God sent a rainbow as a covenant between God and humanity, a symbol of hope and assurance for the future. For us too, as we face a long hard winter, may we find sacred space to grieve as needed, may we feel welcome and strengthened by community, may we be supported by the loving relationships that make life worth living, and may we be sustained by hope in God’s continuing covenant with us and with all humanity.

Shabbat Shalom, Stay Safe and Be Well,

Rabbi Lisa