Ministers can play a significant role by offering to “hold a space” for prayer and remembrance, and providing a simple framework that allows for stories to be told, prayers to be said, and an act of remembering or commendation to take place.
Simple and relatively informal liturgies of this kind can be held in various kinds of location:
- In church (thought should then be given to which part of the church is most appropriate to each particular gathering)
- At home
- In a public building that has significance for the participants (e.g. school, sports club, pub)
- Out of doors (e.g. park, garden, churchyard, by a river)
Liturgies in the home can include Caribbean “Nine-Night” services and similar events, though they may need to take place much longer than usual after the funeral.
Other ideas for liturgies in the home or garden include: lighting candles over music, floating candles on water, building a cairn, collecting autumn leaves in a basket, handing out acorns/seeds as a sign of new life, hanging Christmas tree decorations, planting a tree, mixing drops of essential oils into a healing fragrance, or making a collage. It can be helpful to involve children in planning and carrying out these simple actions.
A framework with simple prayers has been developed by the C. of E. Life Events Team and is available online here.
This type of gathering may be particularly well linked to an occasion when ashes are laid to rest, or a gravestone is raised. In cases where the family would normally have filled in the grave, the later raising of a gravestone is a particular opportunity for them to gather at the grave, to lay a wreath, to pray, and (if public health rules allow) to sing hymns.