Thousands of people took part in the Christmas memorial service at Bermondsey funeral home Albin’s last week – after it was only held online last year due to Covid-19 lockdown.
Jon Dyer, one of the directors, said there were about 1,000 people at the service itself on the evening of Wednesday, December 1, and another 1,000 watching the livestream.
Dean of Southwark Cathedral the Very Revd Andrew Nunn led the service, while vicars and priests from local churches, as well as a humanist, helped celebrate.
Mr Dyer said: “We were really pleased that people were able to come back this year after the break last year. We did both [the in-person service and the livestream] because we thought not everyone would have the desire to come, but would still want to take part.”
People were invited ahead of the service to write personal messages that were then hung on a massive Christmas tree in the garden. This was included in the service.
Mr Dyer added: “Christmas brings things to the foreground. It is full of joy and happiness, but it can also remind you of people you have lost, whether they were close or less close. It resonates with us all.”
He said that the service aimed to reflect every aspect of the way the pandemic has affected people’s lives, from mental to financial, as well as the disease itself.
“Like everything, our perspective on life has been changed by Covid. Of course, there have been a lot of deaths but even if you haven’t lost anyone to Covid, it’s been a period of reflection that reminds you of people who have died in other ways. It brings everything to the forefront of your mind.”
This was the 22nd annual memorial service, which was established by the late Barry Albin-Dyer after getting the garden built in 1999.