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Funeral ministry is a key part of parish ministry for many churches, whether in traditional rural communities or in busy town centres. Clergy and licensed lay ministers conduct funerals in churches, crematoria, cemeteries and green burial grounds, providing pastoral care, compassion and hope to thousands of bereaved families and friends each year. It’s so important that the Archbishops’ Council commissioned independent research with families who have had a Church of England funeral. This was supported by a wide range of research with funeral directors, clergy and others working to help the bereaved.

  • The research confirmed that most people have a positive experience of a Church of England funeral.
  • That the culture around death and funerals is changing.
  • That families want funerals to be unique and personal.
  • That the taboo around talking about death before it happens is being challenged.
  • That the relationship with the Funeral Director is crucial – and changing.

Read on to discover how this research might make a difference to the way churches approach funeral ministry.

  • Working with the funeral director

    When it comes to supporting families in a time of need, Funeral Directors and clergy have the same aims. A great partnership and a commitment to best practice will result in better funerals, and a foundation for building longer term relationships with families.

  • Meeting the family

    In the earliest stages of coming to terms with a death, families are looking to plan a funeral that remembers the unique life of the person who died. It’s also a time for grief, for saying goodbye, and finding comfort and hope. The research gave valuable insights about balancing these needs in a Church of England funeral.

  • Mind the gap

    After meeting and planning the service, there might be anything from a few days to over two weeks before the day of the funeral. This can be an especially difficult time for the family and all those who will attend. Read on for simple ideas to support them during this waiting time.

  • On the day

    The funeral service itself is the culmination of all the thinking and planning. It is an important transition for families and will be a significant moment for them. If it goes wrong, it is hard for them to forget. This section looks at the key principles drawn from the research that help to make the service meaningful and memorable.

  • Soon afterwards

    People often have their family and friends around them soon after a funeral, but a church that stays in touch now prepares the way for future contact. There are practical and pastoral opportunities suggested in this section for supporting people in the weeks immediately after a funeral.

  • Remembering

    Many churches report that services to remember loved ones are growing faster than almost any other kind of service. Whether it’s a personal memorial or a service with others, families have a clear need after the funeral – a need which the church can help with. Use this section to explore ways to make the most of these services.

  • Talking about death

    Talking about death has always been something of a taboo in this country, but things are beginning to change. Chaplains in hospitals and hospices, Funeral Directors and others are encouraging people to plan ahead, both in detail and more generally, to talk about issues ahead of time. Read on to find out how the Church of England is part of this change.