Wednesday, 28 September 2011


Before I embarked upon this marvellous ministry of mine, I would have told you that the happy bits would have been found in the planning of weddings and baptisms, with the sad times confined to the planning and delivery of funerals. 

During my House-Move-Sojourn, the thing I missed a lot was delivering funerals. I am something of a fan of the pastime - not because I am morbid, and not because it suits my dark attire. I gain no particular pleasure from witnessing the agonies of the grieving relatives - although at all times it is a treasured privilege to be trusted with it. 

The simple fact, quite unexpectedly, is that in the planning of funerals, I do most of my laughing (in the work arena).

Typically, my means of bring such a service together is to visit the home of the nearest and dearest. The framework of the conversation is set by the need to formulate an order of service, confirm choices of music and 'performers' plus the most important - and often unsaid - thing: that I render the deceased no longer a complete stranger to me. I have to be a sponge for every little anecdote, sentiment (expressed or implied), biographical tidbit. In many ways, I need to get a feel for the person if I am to do justice to their final journey. 

The plain and simple fact is that these meetings are more often than not permeated by much laughter. I have been trying to think why this may be, as I am in all senses very respectful of the family's bereavement at all times. That is to say, I don't walk in and launch into a Stand-Up routine. The laughter comes quite spontaneously, and think it is born of several factors: relief (that the service is now organised), permission (to think about the person who has died without coyness, as that is what I have to ask them to do), the joy born of love (people tend to remember the joyful and the amusing, not the dark and painful), that humans are generally perverse creatures and this is manifest in our testimonials, and most importantly - when we talk about someone who has died (and I mean really talk about them), we re-enliven them. It might be all of those things, or none. 


  1. Having been on 'the receiving end' of this undoubted gift of yours I can readily confirm that you handle the "getting to know the deceased" bit extremely well.
    After the initial shock of this energetic man bounding Tigget-like, into my house announcing "I love your blue shrub, is it a Delphinium?" (The shrub in question was an Hibiscus) "I want one".
    I found your openness and willingness to adapt your usual structure to incorporate my very different wishes, both very comforting and quite a surprise.
    John's funeral was absolutely everything he and I could have wished and the smooth-running of the entire enterprise was entirely due to your attention to and care for detail.
    Not too sure there was much humour around on that day, but it started the long healing progress of bereavement perfectly as well I hope, as forming the basis of a lasting friendship.

  2. ...well, erm - thank you. I confess I had forgotten that our warm (and to be long-lived) association began in that way!

    You are too kind, missus. Too kind by far :)

    But thank you!

  3. I too have unexpectedly found the greatest joy in my (lay) ministry to be in taking funerals. The privilege of holding the people (both deceased and very much alive) before God in a way that comforts and commends is huge. And as you note there is huge privilege too in being let into people's lives at such a difficult time. And almost always much joy and laughter as I do so.

    The lives that people have led are always fascinating, however simple or high profile. The choices they have made are 'written' in the funeral wishes they have planned, or others are now planning with me.

    Interestingly it seems to be the time when people who might not otherwise have contact with a Christian Minister or church, want to be prayed with, or for. Thus it is when they are most open to acknowledging God's love.

    Mind you sometimes we have to do read some rather cheesy poems, listen to some distinctly inappropriate songs, or arrange some rather startling personal effects in the process of this ministry.

    Off now to write a eulogy for a man who wants his coffin accompanied by a picture of John Wayne!

  4. You can hold a memorial service anywhere, and for some this is the most attactive feature. The funeral director can apply to the church or cemetery authority for permission to put up a memorial on your behalf and the authority will normally charge for giving its permission.



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