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.
The research undertaken for Archbishops’ Council showed that expectations are high around funerals, and that whatever happens, it is an important part of the journey of grief and remembering. However, even the smallest mistakes become really significant, and it’s hard for the church to recover its reputation after a ‘bad’ funeral. So everything that happens on the day of the funeral matters.
- Many Funeral Directors will call the family on the day of the funeral to see how they are and to check everything is ready to proceed. A call from the vicar, or from someone else in the church, will assure the family they are still being held in prayer.
- Arrive and robe early at the venue so you are ready to greet people.
- Review the space for the funeral in light of the numbers expected and everything that has been planned with the family. Feeling confident with every detail of the delivery and choreography is key.
- Make sure you have your notes with you!
- Doing the homework, including anecdotes and always referring to the person who died by their name, will mean a lot to everyone at the funeral. (Much of civil celebrants’ training focuses on this, with particular emphasis on getting the eulogy right.) Essentially, friends and family want to feel that the minister had a sense of who the person really was and helped them to celebrate their unique life.
- There is a balance between telling the story of the person and conveying the hope of God’s promises.
- The family will remember the day long afterwards, so deliver everything to the highest standard. Mistakes will stay in memories for a long time.
- You may wish to use a prayer card to hand out to everyone there (pictured left). It conveys that the church is there for all those who grieve and not just close family.
- As well as the Order of Service, if there is one, consider giving the family a copy of everything that was said, including readings and prayers.
Going to the post-funeral gathering
- If you are invited, go to the post-funeral gathering if you can. It will be an opportunity to talk again, to show your personal support and to be there for practical questions and, often, deeper conversations.