HUNDREDS of people filled Worcester Cathedral to pay their respects to Denise Inge, the wife of the Bishop of Worcester, who lost her battle against cancer.
Bishop John was joined by his eldest daughter Eleanor, 15, as well as the the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu and almost 1,000 mourners this afternoon.
The moving and often uplifting service gave thanks for the 51-year-old's life and people were reminded throughout of her words shortly after she was diagnosed with an inoperable sarcoma in her abdomen. - "Whatever happens, Alleluia is our song."
Dr Inge, who is also mother to Olivia, nine, lost her fight to cancer on Easter Sunday (April 20) surrounded by her loved ones.
Stirring songs performed by members of All Saints Church, where Dr Inge was a member, filled the air as people began to take their seats with the sound of the magnificent Cathedral bells sounding out during lulls in the music.
Dr Helen Farish read an extract from Dr Inge's forthcoming book A Tour of Bones, to be published on November 6, for which she toured charnel houses in Europe after becoming troubled living above a charnel house in Worcester.
The extract ended with the line: "What I have been surprised to discover, as these questions chase and wash over me, is that preparing to live and preparing to die are in the end the same thing."
Dean of Worcester, the Very Reverend Peter Atkinson gave a touching sermon entitled Alleluia Is Our Song which included a reading from Luke 24.13-35 and referred to Denise as an "Easter Christian".
In an extremely poignant moment, he told those gathered: "If all of us have shared part of that road with Denise, none of us have done so more closely, more lovingly, or more intensely than her husband and her daughters.
"If Denise longed to live, it was to be wife to John and mother to Eleanor and Olivia.
" And during these recent months the rest of us have shared their hopes and fears; and now we offer them – we offer you, John, Eleanor, Olivia – our helpless but still deeply-felt love."
He spoke of the strength of her belief, the "enormous web of praying" that followed Dr Inge's diagnosis and her love of Thomas Traherne who she became a respected authority on.
A smattering of laughter broke out as the dean told those gathered: "Three months ago, during that gracious respite of her disease, John and Denise with many others from this diocese made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
"You have all seen the picture of Denise and John standing, hand in hand, trousers rolled up, shin-deep in the River Jordan, looking for all the world like a pair of children on holiday – which they were."
Dr Sentamu spoke warmly of Dr Inge and called her a "real woman of encouragement" who was full of faith.
Music played a big part in the service with the Cathedral choir performing and hymns including Lift High the Cross, God is our Strength and Refuge and Thine be the Glory as well as modern pieces.
As the coffin left the cathedral through the west door carried by Denise's three brothers and brother-in-law and followed by Bishop John and his daughter, the choir sang the Nunc Dimittis to a setting by Geoffrey Burgon.
Berega Hospital in Morogoro, Tanzania, run by Anglican Diocese of Morogoro which is linked with the Diocese of Worcester, will benefit from the retiring collection.
A private burial service in Bredwardine, Herefordshire will take place tomorrow (Wednesday).