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I’ve been thinking recently about funerals, having had rather too many to conduct in the past couple of months.

   Funerals come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The church has been conducting them for hundred of years, and this country has moved from a time when we had a near monopoly on the burial of the dead to today when there is much greater choice: about what sort of funeral you have, where you can hold it, who leads it and so on.

   In times gone by what the church offered was very inflexible, but I wonder whether you know that is not the case these days. Very little is set in stone: there will be a Bible reading and some prayers, but everything else can be tailored to your particular needs.

   You don’t have to be a regular churchgoer to have a funeral in the parish church where you live, or to be buried in the graveyard of your community. And funerals don’t just have to be in church; many of the ones I lead are at one of our local crematoria.

   The main alternative to having a local Vicar conduct your funeral is to use a celebrant. A funeral celebrant’s work is confined to the funeral service itself. They will probably meet with the family once to plan the service itself but once the funeral has taken place, their input ends.

   What the church can offer is someone who already has links to your community. We can talk with you about your funeral wishes long before you die and provide ongoing care for those left behind, if they want it. We build relationships with people that go much wider than the funeral itself. Children find it easier at funerals, when they are being led by someone they know through school; a friendly face at the front can make all the difference.

   We also have much experience in talking with people about death and dying, a subject that can be really difficult to face for some people. Families often find it hard to have deep conversations with someone before they die because it seems too painful to contemplate the time when they will no longer be here. Often the dying person is more reconciled to their own death than those around them. I’ll never forget being round a bedside in a hospice more than 20 years ago with a lady who was ready to go and wanted to talk about that, while her family standing there forbade her from doing so, as if somehow a conversation would make the inevitable come all the sooner. It made a deep impression on me. Though their stance was understandable, it made things worse rather than better for all in that room.

   The Vicar and the church congregations in our benefice are here to serve not just churchgoers but the whole community. All you need to do is ask. My contact details are elsewhere in this magazine – do get in touch, if you’d like a conversation about what I’ve said here or anything else.


With best wishes


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