Remembering and Remembrance in 2021

In this season when people who are grieving and bereaved have been especially affected, remembering has become more important than ever.

Broadcast on September 15th 2021, watch or watch-again the Revd Canon Sandra Millar and Katy Tutt (Loss and Hope) as they explored creative ways to serve our communities around All Souls'.

Presentation slides

See Sandra's slides (Downloads a PDF file)

See the (PDF) presentation slides by Katy Tutt from the bereavement charity At A Loss and the church resourcing coalition Loss and HOPE

Webinar recording



Our webinars always allow time for live questions. These were some of the popular questions that were asked, and the answers given by the panel.

Q: We have found that making sure the churchyard is tidy and well looked after is really appreciated by the bereaved.  Do you have any links with organisations that might link this to the green church agenda?

A: In this season, reflective spaces outdoors are welcomed by all sorts of people, particularly those who might be less comfortable seeking peace and space to think indoors. If your church has outdoor space it can use, that can be a real blessing. Caring for God's Acre is a charity that works nationally to support groups and individuals to investigate, care for, and enjoy burial grounds and graveyards.

Q: What can we do if there is someone whose grief we fear is moving beyond what we’d expect from bereavement and into complicated grief? How can we support them well? 

A: It’s vitally important to remember that there are limits to what we can provide - and to recognise when we have reached our limits, but also to realise that most grief doesn’t fall into the category of complicated grief. Most people can be supported by “contact, listen, bless” - that is: being in touch, listening and offering kindness - and many people have found that talking (for example as part of a Bereavement Journey group) has enabled them either to move forwards, or to identify that they need specialist help. 

As a result of the pandemic, grief is more likely to be complicated though - so do look for specialist support groups and counselling via the At A Loss website, just click on ‘Find support’. People can also seek help through their GPs or via the Association of Christian Counsellors

Q. Is there any research or wisdom out there on whether it's better to: 

  1. hold remembering services/events in as many places as possible - 
  2. or to direct more resources and energy to fewer services, and thus not have them in every church/parish?

Does it make a difference either way to those who are grieving?

A: Remembering is very often centred on the person who has died, rather than on the specific place where the service is held - so we need to be very clear about what we’re doing, where - and offer alternatives for people who cannot travel further afield. For example, live streaming / recording [if that is possible] or making sure other churches are open for private prayer. 

This is everyone’s ministry and nothing beats a friend offering to take you to a service, so we can encourage our congregations to invite / go along with friends and neighbours and to offer lifts to people in neighbouring parishes where they are able. 

Q. Cof E rules on what is acceptable for a memorial in a churchyard seem very restrictive compared with other places. This can cause needless conflict with our local community and sometimes hostility. Any ideas?

This is a very difficult area. Make sure you’re clear from the outset about what the restrictions in your particular place are - and try to be warm, giving permission wherever you can. For example, start by saying “You can do this” before raising any particular difficulties. 

Q. You’ve sometimes talked about the need for remembering around Christmas. Would it be a good idea for us to move the time of remembering closer to Christmas? 

It’s really important to think about the secular calendar as well as the church calendar. Christmas has a resonance with lots of people who wouldn’t necessarily be aware of All Souls’ Day. You might want to do something around All Souls for church-confident people and (if you have the resource) also consider putting on a simple service of remembering towards the end of November / beginning of December to acknowledge that Christmas is a very difficult time for many people. 

There is an article about Blue Christmas on the Church Support Hub here. It includes a link to some liturgy used by a church in Teddington, which you’re welcome to adapt to your own situation.

Useful links and resources

At A Loss - a site which you can direct bereaved people to. There is immediate help available if they need it.

Loss and HOPE - a Christian coalition of charities which resource churches to become more bereavement-friendly.

Church of England Funerals - information for the general public about arranging a church-led funeral and where to find bereavement support.

Caring for God's Acre - a site that offers great activities and resources for making the most of churchyard space for our local comunities.

Ideas for remembering and Remembrance services here on the Church Support Hub.