Funerals at St. John’s

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Saying goodbye to those we love

The loss of someone we love is a traumatic experience, even if their death is expected, and comes at the end of a long and fruitful life. Sometimes the circumstances make it even worse; a suicide, the death of a child or partner, the exhaustion of a long and painful illness. These can all add to the shock and stress which comes to those who are left behind. Often the initial reaction is one of numbness:
"I feel as though I'm wrapped in cotton wool - everything is far off and dull."

Yet this is a time when a lot of things have to be done. The death certificate must be collected, the death registered, benefit books returned, banks, building societies and insurance companies notified, and a funeral arranged. As a result, the funeral can get a lot less attention than it deserves;
"We don't want a fuss, something quiet and simple..."

The funeral, though, is very important. It provides a focal point for grief, and a formal acknowledgement that the death has happened. Many people say that they really only begin the process of coming to terms with loss once the funeral has taken place. Something too quiet and simple can fail to meet the need - and it may not be seen as doing justice to someone who has been so important in the lives of the mourners.

It can also be a time when the deceased's life is remembered, and put into perspective. This happens throughout the time of grieving, of course. All the same, a special ceremony recognising the unique qualities, achievements and interests of the one who has died has a special role in the acceptance of the bereavement.

For Christians, the funeral is also an important moment when we formally hand over the care of our loved one to God, and celebrate his promise of eternal life. Those who are not regular church goers also usually opt for a Christian funeral, with a local minister leading the service. Death is one of those times when we look beyond the boundaries of normal life and explore a dimension which has been the subject of the church's message for two millennia. As at other important moments in our lifetimes, it seems to many people appropriate to turn to their local church for help in reaching out towards the spiritual, and in discovering hope in the face of death.

At St. John's we are happy to offer whatever help we can, both with arranging funerals, and offering a listening ear.

Some Questions about Funerals

Where should we have the service?

Nowadays most people opt for a service at a crematorium or cemetery chapel. On the face of it, this seems a sensible option. The service and committal for cremation or burial are at the same place, with no journey in between. Usually an organist is available, and taped music can be played. Sometimes it is felt to be inappropriate to go into a church when the deceased person or their family have not been church goers.

On the other hand, the service at a crematorium is necessarily short (usually 20 minutes, or 30 at certain times at some crematoria). There is time for no more than one hymn, the congregation has to be hustled out at the end, and may have to wait for a previous service to end. Although most crematorium chapels are well cared for, they tend to lack the dignity and sense of occasion that can be found in a church. A service in church can go at its own pace, and allows time for more than just the bare bones of the service, if more is required. Hymns can be sung, and (certainly at St. John's) tapes can also be played. The church is closer for neighbours to attend, especially if they are elderly, and a service in the local church lends a sense of community to a service for someone who may have lived in the locality for many years. Christians believe that God cares for everyone, and so we are happy to welcome everyone into church, not just those who have been regular worshippers.

Whatever the choice, our clergy are happy to officiate at any service to which they are invited.

What form does the service take?

The usual outline of a Church of England funeral service is fairly simple. It begins with sentences from the Bible which are read out as the coffin is carried into the church or chapel. Then a prayer is said, asking for God's help in trusting him. Then there is a psalm (often Psalm 23) or a hymn, or both. A Bible reading follows, and then the address. This is followed by prayers (perhaps with a second hymn), and a final prayer entrusting the person who has died to God. The committal (burial or cremation) follows and the service ends.

Often other bits are inserted. We may listen to a favourite piece of music, poetry or other reading, and friends or relatives may share reflections on the person's life. Items of special significance can be placed on the coffin, and close friends and relatives may choose to stand by the coffin at the prayer of commendation into God's care.

Does the minister discuss the service beforehand?

Yes. Every effort is made to meet with the family and tailor the occasion to their needs, and to the person who has died.

Can we listen to favourite music or readings?

Yes, but be careful - especially if the reader was close to the deceased. What sounds like a good idea beforehand can be distressing on the occasion.

Should we have hymns?

Of course, if you want them, but don't feel you have too. For a small group of people who don't feel like singing, hymns can be a burden. Of course, they can also be fitting and appropriate. It all depends on the particular circumstances.

Should we bring children?

Usually, yes. Children react to bereavement in a different way from adults. Very young children can't easily grasp the idea that death is permanent. Older children can, but may often seem very matter-of-fact about it. In either case, don't assume that they aren't hurting. Being left out of the service can seem to them to be a sign that their own sense of loss is not taken seriously. You can't protect them from grief. What you can do, is help them with it, take their sense of loss seriously and answer their questions honestly. (And those questions may pop up much later than you'd expect.)

There may well be other questions you'd like to ask. If so, get in touch directly through any of the means listed on the about us page.