Despite our beautiful building being closed we are available to take funerals, and offer ongoing pastoral support, in other places – churches and cremetorium.
A funeral marks the close of a human life on earth. It is the opportunity for friends and family to express their grief, to give thanks for the life which has now completed its journey in this world and to commend the person into God’s keeping.
As far back into history as we can penetrate, human beings seem to have felt the need for a ceremonial leave-taking of those who have died.
A funeral service in the Church of England – whether in a parish church or a crematorium chapel – may be very short and quiet with only a few members of the family present, or an occasion of great solemnity with music, hymns and a packed church. A funeral may also be set within a celebration of Holy Communion. Whatever the pattern of service, the words and actions all speak of a loving God and the preciousness to him of every human being.
The service usually begins with the priest or minister reading aloud some reassuring sentences from the Bible, such as:
– ‘Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’’ John 1:25-26
– ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.’ Matthew 5:4
Near the start of the service there is an opportunity for someone who has known well the person who has died to say a few words about them – a tribute.
A Psalm – often The Lord is my Shepherd (Psalm 23) – may follow. This, together with readings from the Bible, tell of God’s care and of the hope of eternal life.
This is followed by an address or a sermon by the minister in which he or she speaks about the great Christian beliefs about life beyond death. Such words can be a source of great comfort and strength to the mourners.
Prayers then recall the promise of the resurrection, and ask for comfort and strength for those who mourn.
There then follows a Commendation, in which the person who has died is entrusted to God’s love
The funeral service ends with the Committal – a particularly solemn moment. This takes place either at the graveside or, in the case of a cremation, in the crematorium chapel or in church before the hearse leaves for the crematorium.
In the cemetery or churchyard, the family will gather round the open grave into which the coffin is lowered and they will hear the words:
We therefore commit his / her body to the ground;
earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life.
Handfuls of earth are then scattered on the coffin.
At a crematorium, the words of committal are normally accompanied by the closing of a curtain to hide the coffin from view.
The committal can be a very emotional moment. Many who are suffering grief find that, even in their sadness, the words of prayer can lift them towards the experience of Christian rejoicing in the knowledge of life beyond death.
The offering of prayer and the trust that the person is in God’s safe hands can begin the process of healing the grief of loss.
Arranging a funeral
The person who has died might have left a paragraph in their Will describing the sort of funeral arrangements they hoped for. Naturally, the family will want to keep to such arrangements as far as possible.
Not everyone knows that they have the right to a funeral in their parish church even if they have not been church-goers. Nor do practising Christians always realise that they can have a Communion service as part of the funeral.
The funeral director plays a very important part. In most cases, the funeral director will contact the church to make arrangements directly.
Burials and cremations
The church yard at St George and St Mary’s has been closed for over 100 years but we have a memorial garden for the internment of ashes. There are no memorial plaques allowed but cut flowers are welcomed, along with spring bulbs. Other flowers may be planted in the borders, please enquire before doing this though.
After the funeral
People who have lost someone close to them are often so busy with practical details and arrangements between the death and the funeral that they do not experience the full sense of their loss until later.
Grieving is a natural and important part of coming to terms with and healing this loss and it may continue for several months. The local church is there to help with support after a funeral. Please speak to your minister. Sometimes it is those who have suffered a close bereavement themselves, clergy or lay people, who can most easily offer comfort and support to those who mourn.
Comfort is also to be found in the promises of Jesus Christ, in the hope of the Resurrection and in the belief that the beloved person is safe in the hands of God.