Reclaiming our funeral ministry

The Archdeacons have launched a couple of pilot projects looking at new arrangements for organising funerals in partnership with Funeral Directors.

The Archdeacons have launched a couple of pilot projects looking at new arrangements for organising funerals in partnership with Funeral Directors. Partly a response to the changes in Fee arrangements, the pilots in North Meols and Wigan are showing a new way to reclaim funeral ministry.

Margaret Sherwin, Area Dean in Wigan said “we need to take a fresh look at funeral ministry and find ways we can reconnect pastorally with those at a difficult time in their lives. Nationally the church has lost too many funerals to independent ministers. This has not been good for our ministry to the bereaved. We need to reclaim our funeral ministry”.

The pilot involves a different way for fees to be paid. Instead of Funeral Directors paying parishes directly they will deal with St James House and St James House will guarantee payments to parishes and ministers. Parishes will be able to invoice St James House for a funeral at any time and payment can be made as quickly as possible, It will be down to staff then to make sure they get payment from Funeral Directors.

So far we have had positive feedback from all sides. Margaret confirms “my treasurer is very happy with the new system which makes it a lot easier for him to have an audit trail.” Parishes and retired clergy have a more reliable way for receiving payment while Funeral Directors only need to pay one invoice saving them time and trouble.

But the changes have led to something more profound for parish ministry. Funeral Directors are contacting parish clergy first to make initial funeral arrangements meaning our churches have more chance to reach out to those in need. “We have to take a fresh look at our funeral ministry. It has implications for pastoral and bereavement teams, it means that more Readers are being asked to conduct funerals, it mean we have to make serious efforts to work harder at funerals.”

It’s a challenge that Wigan Deanery are responding too positively. “we’re looking at Deanery wide training for visiting teams” explains Margaret, “as well as looking at how we support Readers who are looking to conduct funerals”

But it’s the opportunity to get back to what the church is called to do that excites Margaret the most. “We should be able to offer total care to our parishioners at the time of most need. But this has been slipping in recent years and often a funeral can happen without the local church being aware and able to help. Yet the church offers what people need, friends, fellowship, support and hope. We need to take this opportunity to be serious about the whole care of the person and reclaim funeral ministry."