Remembering and Remembrance

All Saints’, All Souls’ and Remembrance Sunday are all services which are often well attended, and many people may only come to church for these occasions. Supporting bereaved families after a funeral and remembering those who died in war are moments of opportunity for building longer term relationships and sharing the good news of God’s love. Read on for ideas to help.

Remembering services

Many churches find that ‘Remembering’ services are some of their largest congregations.

These are the services held around All Souls’ day which offer people an opportunity to remember those they love but see no longer, whether the loss is recent or long ago, and to support and maintain contact with bereaved families whether or not they have had a Church of England-led funeral. Church of England Funerals research indicates that people want and hope to be followed up by the church after the funeral.

To help with invitation:

In the service

Involve the whole congregation in prayers in a personal way, for example:

  • The prayer memory box: provide lots of postcards so that everyone has one – they can be colourful or plain. Also have a fairly large, attractive box ready at the front.  Invite people to write a brief ‘memory prayer’ on their postcard to say thank you to God for special memories of a person they are remembering that day – perhaps a particular memory of good times with them, or writing their name on the card simply to remember their whole unique life – and place it in the box. Some suitable music could be played while people bring their cards to ‘post’ in the box. As an alternative to the box, cards could also be pinned onto a display board instead.

Remembrance services

Large numbers of young people and their parents come to Remembrance services through uniformed groups like Scouts, Guides, Cubs and Brownies, along with military groups. Media coverage of WW1 anniversaries, local history research, and personal interest has encouraged families to mark this day by attending a service.  Since it might be their only  contact with a church that year, what will their experience be? Make it memorable, and offer something to come back for.

Head of Church of England Life Events, the Revd Canon Sandra Millar, reflects on the importance of ‘occasion’ services in the bigger picture of a person’s journey of faith, even if they only come to that one service. Read it here.

  • Poppy prayers: involving everyone in prayer using a familiar symbol helps to make it memorable. Use poppies to do this in a Remembrance service; a simple script idea is suggested here.
  • Offer something to come back to – if everyone in the congregation was given an invitation to come to a Christmas service, such as Christingle for example, it’s likely that at least a few of them would come. Giving an invitation for one specific event is more effective than simply making a general announcement about forthcoming services. Having a card to take away and put on the fridge at home will serve as a reminder. There is an invitation specifically for Christmas services on the Church Print Hub. It can be customised with your service details before you order.
  • Remembering those who died in wars may prompt people to think about death. Offering GraveTalk during the season of remembering would work well – the questions do not need adapting for ages 16 and over, but good pastoral care and sensitivity is needed if working with younger ages. Military groups may even be open to having a bespoke Gravetalk event.