Funerals - dead central to parish ministry

Published: 19th October 2016

Funerals? Ive no ministry to the dead...

We get nothing out of them, why bother?

Not your attitude? Its certainly the attitude of some. Even Bob Jacksons statistical analysis for this diocese makes exactly that point, where he says he sees no benefit in doing lots of occasional offices when they do not lead to statistical growth. Actually, Bob, in my case fees generated for the Diocese of Lichfield pay for another full time cleric entirely, they help my parish pay the Common Fund, keep the rumour of the Church of England alive, and here at least funerals have led to substantial growth over the last decade when, with death and debility, we should really have been in terminal freefall.

When I was first ordained 30 years back, the Church of England had the monopoly on funerals. Now Anglicans take a third of funerals, a figure decreasing annually. Undertakers frequently say local Anglican clergy are unwilling to take funerals routinely (and that some shouldnt be let loose on funerals! But thats a different issue.).

Every week I see hundreds of folk at funerals they know me, even if I dont them. Because they know me, it often means they are readier to approach for baptisms, weddings and the like. Perhaps a third of my present congregation are in church each Sunday because I have done a funeral for them or a friend.

As clergy numbers decline, it will of course grow harder to fit everything in. As we retreat from the bread and butter stuff of ministry, we can be sure that overall numerical decline will increase.

Fr Ron Farrell is vicar of St Francis of Assisi in Friar Park, West Bromwich and has taken over 200 funerals each year since 2010

Page last updated: Wednesday 19th October 2016 8:16 AM
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