Funerals at St Mary’s
Jesus said: ’I am the resurrection and the life, those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.’ [John 11.25-26]
You’ve probably ended up here either because a loved one has recently died, or you’re gathering information and getting prepared.
The death of a loved one can be a very difficult time: even if the death was expected, and there is so much to do once somebody dies. One of those things is the organising of a funeral, and the choices available to you are many and varied.
Anybody who lived in the parish of St Mary’s in East Preston with Kingston is entitled to have their funeral in the parish church - or to ask the clergy to take a funeral at the Crematorium (Worthing Crematorium is our closest) - whether or not the deceased was a church goer. Practicing Christians may not realise that a funeral service can be held within the context of a Communion Service (sometimes called a Requiem Mass) if they wish.
Usually the first port of call is the Funeral Director. There are many firms working in this geographical area - you may already have experienced one or more companies. As part of their negotiation the Funeral Director will ask what sort of a funeral you are trying to arrange, and if you ask for the Church of England, or St Mary’s, or one of the clergy by name, the Funeral Director will contact with us to make convenient arrangements.
The Church of England provides a framework liturgy for a funeral in its resources Common Worship, and there is flexibility within this to “make the service your own” by the choice of music, readings, the participation of family and/or friends etc.
You would normally meet with the person taking the funeral and chat through some ideas and options and draw up an Order of Service for the funeral. Having a funeral in St Mary’s church gives you much more time and more flexibility than “taking a slot” at the Crematorium, where, necessarily, time is limited.
Although it has become popular to think of funerals as being about the celebration of a life, the Church has always seen them as being about declaring God’s loving faithfulness in the face of death. The old 1662 Prayer Book service hardly even mentions the name of the deceased!
This is the first parish I’ve worked in with a Lychgate in the churchyard, and I discovered early on that there is a popular custom at St Mary’s to have the Committal and Farewell at the Lychgate and to send the coffin off for cremation from there. Some people like this: others are not so keen - we can do either pattern, depending on what people would prefer.
When planning a service the three main elements people think about are: music, readings and a tribute.
Music could be pre-recorded (both at church or in the Crematorium), or played by a musician (such as an organist; or there may be musicians amongst the family and friends). You may wish to sing hymns - but you don’t have to.
A funeral service needs at least one reading from the Bible (or more if you prefer); you may have other poems or readings you wish to add. The person taking the service will be able to advise you.
A tribute (or eulogy) is very common - it’s an opportunity to share memories of the deceased person, to celebrate what was good and honour their life. You or a relative or friend may want to lead this, or you may want the person leading the service to speak some words.
You may want to give some thought to whether the body of the deceased is buried or cremated, and if cremated what you might do with the ashes.
If you desire burial that is no longer possible in St Mary’s churchyard (except in an existing grave where there is still room), and you would have to think about a municipal cemetery (the Funeral Directors will be able to advise with this).
Ashes can be interred in St Mary’s churchyard: either unmarked in the Garden of Remembrance, or marked by a small square stone flush with the turf in the north part of the churchyard. The person taking the funeral can advise you on this. Strict regulations govern interment in a churchyard and what sort of memorial is permitted. You can find out more HERE.
Whilst burial of a body follows immediately from a funeral service, interment of ashes can take place later on.
It may be that you wish to make plans for your own funeral - this is an enormously helpful thing to do for those you leave behind, and takes some of guess work and worry out of arrangements. Most Funeral Directors will offer a pre-paid Funeral Plan, and you can select music, readings and leave directions at the same time. Alternatively you can come and chat to one of the parish clergy who can make a note of your wishes and file those away for when they are needed. It is recommended that you also pass these instructions on to your next of kin and/or lodge them with any Will you may have made.
It is wise, rather than morbid, to make plans and think about these things ahead of time. There is no place for superstition that making plans hastens their fruition! It is sometimes said that only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. It is good to plan for both!
Please do come and have a chat if you are worried or want to talk through some ideas, or want to find out a bit more: that’s part of why we’re here.
There are more ideas and resources at https://churchofenglandfunerals.org
St Paul writes: “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Romans 8.38-39]
Fr Andrew Perry