Death And Bereavement
A personal perspective by a Church of England minister.
Everyone in England lives in a Church of England parish, and is entitled to use the services of a local parish priest at a funeral. You can also ask to have the funeral in the parish church.
Every person is created in the image of God. Whatever failures there might have been in the life of an individual, each one reflects God in some way. The overarching Christian message is the forgiveness of God, and the hope of life to come after this life. Our time in this world is an opportunity to love God, and love our neighbours. Everyone falls within the orbit of God’s love. Many people who are not church goers reflect Christ to the world in an extraordinary way. The Church of England does not simply serve those who go to church, but because it recognises that everyone –churchgoer or not – is created in God’s image, it has a church and a staff member in every community who should be available to serve you at a time of bereavement.
That relationship with the local parish church and the staff team will be stronger if you have introduced yourself to the vicar before you need the services of the Church at a funeral. The Church of England have a rich variety of acts of worship that are designed to help you say farewell to those who are expected to die; can be used when someone dies; and a range of prayers that can be used between death and the funeral. Regardless of whether you have visited the local church in the past, the parish priest should wholeheartedly welcome the opportunity to serve you by taking a funeral service for someone you love at the parish church, or at a local crematoria or graveyard.
The Church of England is a very broad church. Generally ordained ministers are required to use approved forms of worship. Click on the link to worship resources used by Anglican clergy at funerals. The site provides a range of resources on services available through the Church of England, and provides a search device that points you to your local parish church.
Most parish priests will provide a follow up visit after the funeral service. Many churches will offer to pray for the person who has died, you and your family, for some time after the service. They may also provide an annual remembrance service on or around November 2nd, and should be able to signpost you to local bereavement resources run by the Church or community organisations.
The Church of England’s view of the mercy and love of God is generous though it is possible for an individual to entirely reject God’s forgiveness and love. The story of Jesus Christ clearly reflects God’s love for humankind, and that all who respond to the generosity of God can expect to meet again with those they love, and with God who has created all of us.
Ask your funeral director for a view on your parish priest for they will have seen many clergy in action.
Revd Canon Jonathan Martin