On Friday June 9th 160 clergy and readers from the Church of England headed into the National Funeral Exhibition as soon as the doors opened. There was palpable excitement in the air! Soon they were absorbed in looking at coffins, hearses, flowers, urns, memorials and much more. Over on the very large Church of England stand we were busy talking to delegates at the Exhibition, telling them how the Church of England still supports around 3000 families every week at a funeral. See how they got on in this video:
The NFE is the largest trade show for the funeral profession. Funeral directors and their staff – embalmers, arrangers, drivers, bearers – come along to find out the latest developments and to meet each other. It’s very much a family business – and on the Sunday we met several ‘junior’ funeral directors, many still at Primary school. The question was asked; “why is the Church of England here?” The answer is that not only do funerals matter to us, but funeral directors matter too.
Summer is a good time to strengthen the relationship with the local funeral director and their team. There are lots of practical ways to support, and lots of ways we can begin a conversation. Research with Funeral Directors shows that the relationship we have is central to the way that together we serve bereaved families in our parishes in the best way.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Find out about holidays – share some stories and some information so they know when you are available and who will cover. But also maybe find out when they take holiday.
- Take cake – there is no doubt that home-made cake offered as a blessing and a gift is always a treat. The staff team at a funeral directors is often small – so an opportunity to spend time with others can be welcome – and the old ‘tea with the vicar’ line still gets a laugh! [You could hold a Pimms evening – or pie and a pint – whatever works where you are]
- Pray for them – find out what the recent pressures and needs have been and tell them they are on the prayer diary.
- Find out about the newest developments and the coming challenges – the funeral business is changing, and businesses need to respond. In Scotland, plans for regulation are well advanced – what would regulation mean in England?
- Tell them about our newest developments – show www.churchofenglandfunerals.org, particularly the service walk through with an option to listen to hymns. This is a really helpful tools for families as they plan a service.
- Offer a tour of church [after a tour of their premises] – many younger staff working at funeral directors may be unfamiliar with church-led services and church buildings. It’s a great chance to talk about all the things that can happen in a church service – places where creative coffins, creative response, and personal tribute are all held within the great story of God’s love and hope and a community that will be there whenever and wherever it’s needed.
- Take a Funerals leaflet – if you haven’t yet had the opportunity, give your funeral directors a few of the Church of England leaflets which explain about the choices available and that a Church of England funeral is open to all.