More than paper – service sheets and lasting memories

The Revd Canon Sandra Millar

Changes in printing technology means that producing a very special service sheet is now an  integral part of the funeral planning process for many, if not most, families.  It will probably include at least one photograph and may be full colour throughout. The words of hymns and poems will be included, and for family and others the service sheet becomes part of the memories of the day, kept in a special place as a reminder. I know I have a number of such service booklets from funerals of those who were particularly dear to me.

Producing the funeral service sheet is usually arranged by the family in partnership with the funeral director, but it is now possible for both the family themselves, or at a visit to the funeral director, to create the service sheet ‘live’ on-line.  Charles Rogers from With Grace, one such company that produces on-line service sheet says:

“At With Grace, we understand the importance of the funeral liturgy in the journey from grief to hope.  We try to be a guide for bereaved people, helping them to personalise a funeral service that is relevant to their faith and to their need to express what they feel instinctively is the way to remember and, (where appropriate), celebrate the life of the person that has died.  We do this by helping them to create their order of service literally step by step, using one of our simple web based design templates. This not only helps them to see the form that the funeral service will take, but also generates a printed order of service which provides a beautiful keepsake for everyone who knew and wishes to remember the deceased person.”   See www.withgrace.com

When contact is made with ministers, we may increasingly find that choices of music, hymns and poems have already been made and dropped into the service sheet.  The task of the minister at the funeral visit may be less about arranging content and much more about pastoral care, and listening to the family story so that the Christian message of hope can be shared in a way that is relevant and accessible to the situation. This may mean helping the family to choose the right Bible reading, talking about how the service will be led on the day and how it will be uniquely personal.

Talking to the funeral director about how they work with families to produce a service sheet can be really helpful in understanding how to make sure that the service itself is deeply personal to that family within the Church of England framework. Funeral directors and funeral arrangers can find it useful to listen to hymns and check out readings at www.churchofenglandfunerals.org.