The incumbent of a parish is responsible for the Church’s ministry for those who die within the parish. The clergy should give high priority to the arrangements for the funeral, and for the pastoral care of the bereaved. The clergy should always visit the family before the funeral, whether the service is in the church, the crematorium or cemetery chapel.
The pastoral care of the bereaved is an area where carefully selected and trained lay people may assist the bereaved and a parish priest. Careful selection is essential, and it may be inappropriate to select anyone who has had a family bereavement in the last two years. Appropriate training is needed. This may be arranged on a Deanery basis.
Incumbents without assistant staff should co-operate with neighbouring clergy, perhaps on a Deanery basis, so that adequate cover can be given particularly during holiday periods. Funeral Directors should be kept informed of the availability of clergy, the relevant parishes and telephone numbers, and how information about funeral arrangements can be reliably communicated. The on-going pastoral care of the bereaved is always the responsibility of the local incumbent irrespective of who actually takes the funeral.
Parish priests should build relationships of confidence and a reputation for reliability with local funeral directors. It is recommended that newly appointed incumbents should make personal contact with funeral directors in their area. It is also helpful if incumbents can inform funeral directors of the statutory fees, which are updated from the 1st January each year.
Length of service at the Crematorium
The person conducting the funeral must always keep strictly within the time allotted for the service by the crematorium rules. If a longer time is likely to be required then a service in church should be offered. Funeral Directors need to be made aware of this possibility, and suggest it to the bereaved.
These form part of the benefice income and must be declared to the Diocese each year, or when assigned to the Diocese, they must be paid regularly to the Diocesan Office. Fee income must also be declared to the Inland Revenue.
Funeral Services for Suicide
- Those who have taken their own life may be buried in consecrated ground.
- There are some special prayers in Common Worship Pastoral Services for use with those who die knowingly by their own action which can be included in the funeral service.
- Those who were responsible for their own action may receive a Christian funeral service. This applies to cremations and burials.
Cremated remains should be buried in a grave or in ground set apart for this purpose. In a closed churchyard, a faculty is required.
Neo natal death
Unless mothers give notice to a hospital that they wish to make alternative arrangements, hospitals arrange for the cremation of all babies born dead before 24 weeks gestation.
All babies born alive and all those born after 24 weeks gestation must be formally buried or cremated.
Parents may wish to be accompanied by a priest or deacon when they go to see the body of a baby which has died and for the priest or deacon to say prayers.
If a hospital arranges the burial the parents may attend and may invite a priest or deacon or minister to accompany them, or to conduct a suitable service. Such a burial will be in unconsecrated ground and the grave may be a common grave and permission will not be given for it to be marked.
After such a burial or after a cremation or burial in a cemetery or churchyard parents may wish for a suitable memorial service.
Sometimes fathers wish to arrange for a funeral quickly to save the mother from further distress. This may be regretted later.
Agencies which offer support for parents and families, including grandparents, are
- Stillbirth & Neonatal Death Society, 28 Portland Place. London W1N 4DE. 020 7436 5881.
- Support Around Termination for Abnormality, 73-75 Charlotte Street, London W1P 1LB. 020 7631 0280.
- Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths, Artillery House, 11-19 Artillery Row, London SW1P 1RT. 020 7233 2090