Marking the end of life with dignity and respect
As Christians we believe that death is not to be feared and that the promise of Christ is that life is never lost but eternal. Marking a death is nonetheless possibly one of the most important things we can ever arrange for another person and for ourselves.
A funeral marks the close of a life on earth and is an opportunity to express grief at personal loss, and a chance to give thanks for a life lived and to celebrate that life. In a Christian funeral service we commend the deceased to the mercy and love of God, in whom is life and the promise of eternity.
Questions of life and death
Death, dying and funerals raise profound questions about the meaning of life and our ultimate destiny. Jesus Himself believed in a life-giving God: ‘the God of the living, not the dead.’ (Luke 20:38 & Mark 12:27). As Christians we believe that Jesus Christ has destroyed the power of death over us and that in His resurrection good has defeated evil, and eternal life with God has been made possible.
While what happens to us after we die remains a mystery, as Christians we believe that in death we enter a new life with God. That life has been shown to us in the resurrection of Jesus after His own death and we believe that life in the here and now is also lived in the eternal presence of God’s love. If we draw close to God we are also drawing close to those who now rest in His love.
The funeral service
A funeral service in the Church of England can be very short and quiet with just a few people present or an occasion of great solemnity with music, hymns and a packed church. Each service is unique and shaped both by the God in whom we trust and by the person who has died and the emotions of those who mourn them.
Whatever the pattern of the service the words and actions all speak of a loving God and the preciousness to Him of every human person. The service will need to reflect the personality of the one who has died and the circumstances of their death. Feelings of grief and loss, gratitude for the life lived and remembrance of shared events will all mingle together.
We can help you plan a service that will capture what you want to say and help you express your feelings. There is a set form that can be adapted – which means that the basics will always be covered and you will not have to worry about making sure that all is done properly and in order. We encourage personal reflections, memories and stories; you can choose hymns, songs and readings that tell of the person who has died; and we can make suggestions about what others have found helpful in shaping what you want to say.
Arranging a funeral
Everyone has the right to a funeral with the local priest taking part – even if the deceased didn’t attend Church or ‘wasn’t religious’. That service can be in the local parish church or in a cemetery or crematorium chapel and we will always be willing to take part. Helping plan and take funeral services is an important element of our service to the local community and we will help in any way that we can.
You will need to speak to the Undertaker and let them know that you want us to take part in the service and they will contact us directly. If you want the service in Church then do let the Undertakers know when you make the initial arrangements.
After the funeral
In the run-up to the funeral you will be very busy making arrangements and plans and there is little time to experience the full impact of your loss. Often it is only when things have quietened down after the service that the full impact of the loss is felt.
Grief is natural and helps us come to terms with our loss and it will take time – often many months – before you will begin to feel as if you are able to continue with life as before, and no grief is ever entirely lost. We are here for you, with prayer, conversation and support if you need it.
We will pray for the person who has died in the month after their death and around the time of the funeral and for those who mourn. We are always available for a chat and willing to listen if you need to speak about your feelings and what has happened.
Each year in November the Church remembers the dead and we will send you a letter inviting you to a special service of remembrance at which the names of all those who have died in the past year and over the preceding years are read out in Church. You don’t have to attend: we will pray anyway, but it can be a help to know that your loved one is still remembered and your loss is not unrecognised.
If you would like to know more or to speak to the Vicar about funeral services, grief or loss then please do not hesitate to be in touch.