The culture around funerals has changed significantly in the past couple of decades. We have seen the emergence of funeral celebrants, seen funeral directors develop their role extensively, and funerals themselves have become more and more personal, with a shift to celebration rather than sadness. But our ministry has remained constant: we simply journey with people through the ‘valley of the shadow’, helping them shape services, listening to their stories, and holding them in prayer as we commend the person who has died to God’s loving mercy.
Right now it feels different. The words and time may be constrained, and the numbers gathered are small. Yet these small, intimate gatherings may allow families to express grief and loss more openly. Services held at gravesides connect to the beauty of creation – as we have been blessed often in these days with glorious spring weather, and still connect us to the faithful witness of buildings that have stood through centuries.
For the past few years I have been helping the Church of England think about funeral ministry. We have developed resources and shared ideas. We have encouraged people to be confident in the message of hope, to build relationships and to have the courage to keep those relationships going into the future.
Confidence, relationship and courage are still the key words as funeral ministry returns to the forefront of our pastoral care in the current situation. They underpin the thoughts and ideas shared in our recent webinars – and if you missed them or want to see them again then follow this link to see both slides and hear content here on the Support Hub. In the next webinars we will explore the impact of all this on grief, and then begin to think about what it will mean to remember in the weeks, months and years ahead the people whom we love but see no longer. We pray for you and your ministry – and please do get in touch with your experiences, thoughts and insights.