The Relationship Between Funeral Directors and Clergy

Richard Reakes

My name is Richard Reakes and I am currently Team Vicar of Bishop’s Cleeve in Gloucestershire, but prior to this I was a funeral director for twenty-eight years and ran my family business in Somerset. During that time I served for a while as regional chairman of The British Institute of Funeral Directors.

‘Can you do a funeral next Wednesday at 2.00pm at the crem?’ I wonder how many clergy have received such a telephone call from their local funeral director?

However there is much more that lies behind this request than may first meet the eye. Usually the funeral director is the first person a family will contact when they have suffered a bereavement. They most probably have never arranged a funeral before and don’t know what to do or how things are organised. So a wise funeral director will spend time with their client and try and gain a picture of what they require.

For many families their relatives do not live locally, indeed so many more now live or work abroad and trying to co-ordinate them to be all in the same place at the same time can prove difficult. Before meeting with the funeral director most families would have conversations with their relatives and a convenient time and date may be have been discussed. Therefore, in some circumstance, the funeral director is faced with being told by their client when funeral has to be (usually a Friday on the vicar’s day off!).

The other fact is that the funeral director may have numerous funerals to arrange and trying to co- ordinate staff, vehicles, crematoriums, clergy, cemeteries, let alone all the paperwork that has to be in place, can be a logistical nightmare as well as trying to fulfil their clients wishes.

My top five tips for clergy and funeral directors are as follows:-

  1. Funeral directors should contact ministers, if at all possible, before any firm arrangements for a funeral have been made.
  2. Once arrangements have been made, written confirmation should be sent, this insures that all information the clergy have is accurate and forms a ‘contract.’ It is also useful for the funeral director as it clearly lays out what is expected from the person taking the service (i.e. who is organising the organist, marking the grave etc.)
  3. Clergy should inform funeral directors of when they are away for any length of time and who to contact in their absence.
  4. Clergy to visit and maintain some pastoral contact with funeral directors (who cares for the carers?).
  5. Above all else, communication is king. If there is anything of any relevance that either party should know they should contact the other.

But all this boils down to the fact that good relationships between funeral directors and ministers is vital. If both parties get to know how each other works it can only benefit those we are called to serve.