A Funeral in the Church of England

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown’. And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way 
Minnie Louise Haskins, God Knows

The funeral of a loved one acknowledges the closing of a human life on earth.  A funeral service is an opportunity for family and friends to gather in a parish church or crematorium to express their grief, give thanks to God and celebrate a life that has completed its journey through this life, and to commend the soul of the departed into God’s eternal keeping.

A funeral service conducted by a Church of England minister can be very short and quiet with only a few members of a family present, or an occasion of great solemnity with music, hymns, a eulogy offered by one of the mourners, the inclusion of favourite readings, and a full church.  It is also possible for the body of the deceased to lie in church the night before a funeral service, and for a Requiem Eucharist to be held as part of the funeral ceremony.

Whatever the pattern of service, the words and actions all speak of a loving God and the preciousness to him of every human being.

The Choices You and Your Family Have

The person who has died may have left a paragraph in their Will describing the sort of funeral arrangements they hoped for. Naturally, the family will want to keep to such arrangements as far as possible.

Not everyone knows that they have the right to a funeral in their parish church, even if they and the dead person have not been church-goers.  Nor do practising Christians always realise that they can have a Communion service as part of the funeral. The Parish Church of Holy Trinity is the spiritual ‘home’ of everyone who lives within the parish of Ashford in the Water and we welcome a funeral service for your loved one.

Parish clergy regard the taking of funerals as an important part of their work.  They give a lot of time to visiting families, comforting those who are facing loss, finding out what service they want to use and helping them to arrange it.  If the priest did not know the deceased person, then it would help to provide some details, especially if there is to be an address within the service.

The Funeral Director plays a very important part in the co-ordinating of the funeral arrangements and will want to know if the funeral is to be in the parish church or if the parish clergy are to take the service in the crematorium.  They will advise you on the fees for a funeral service in church, at a cemetery, or crematorium.

The main part of the service takes place in the church (i.e. the readings, address, prayers and commendation), and then we either go to the Cemetery or Crematorium for the short service of Committal.  Some families prefer the whole service to take place in church, with just the minister accompanying the coffin to the Crematorium.
The Committal is sometimes a private occasion when the family wish to have the opportunity of saying their own personal goodbye to their loved one.

The Parish Churchyard of Holy Trinity was closed for burials many years ago. The Cemetery lies approximately 220m north of the church and is controlled by the Parish Council.

The Crematorium

It is possible to have the funeral service at the Crematorium only, conducted by one of the parish clergy.

The Cemetery

Although rare nowadays, a funeral service can be conducted entirely at the graveside.

You have the choice of either the modern or the traditional service, both in church and at the crematorium.  Please ask the minister who will visit you to discuss the service for more details about this choice.

Thanksgiving and Memorial Services

It is possible for you to have a private Funeral Service with Committal before gathering for a Thanksgiving or Memorial Service after this at the Parish Church, on the same day or on another occasion.  The parish clergy are happy to discuss your Order of Service for this.

The Christian View of Death

A funeral service will reflect the personality of the one who has died and the circumstances of their death.  Feelings of grief, gratitude, joy and sadness often intermingle.  Sometimes, a sense of tragedy is uppermost, especially when it is a young person who has died.  When it is the end of a long and fruitful life, the feelings of thanksgiving can be strongest.

There are times when the death of a faithful Christian seems to be the consummation of all they have lived for and the funeral service is a triumphal departure for their true home.

Funeral services always raise profound questions about the meaning of life and death.  Jesus himself believed in a life-giving God: ‘the God of the living, not of the dead.’ Christians believe that Christ’s resurrection at Easter is the triumph of good over evil and of life over death and has made eternal life available to us.

What happens after we die remains a mystery.  Some Anglicans believe in Christ’s continuing power beyond death to cleanse us of our sins and bring us into the closer presence of God.  That is why those of the more Catholic tradition pray for those who are dead.  What Heaven is like, no one can exactly say, but the Bible affirms that in God’s kingdom we shall delight in the presence and love of God and of the whole company of heaven.  Whatever is wonderful about life here on earth is only a glimpse of the glory of the life that is to come.  The comfort we need to find strength to come to terms with death and bereavement is to be found in the promises of Jesus Christ, in the hope of the Resurrection and in the belief that our departed loved ones are safe in the hands of God.

In the days before and after the funeral there may not be much of an opportunity to reflect on these things, but the parish clergy and others involved in the service will be glad to offer help in thinking through how you have been affected personally by the death of your loved one.

Some Prayers and Readings Which You May Find Helpful

Prayers of commendation

God of mercy,
into whose hands your Son Jesus Christ
commended his spirit at his last hour,
into your same hands
we now commend your servant N
that death may be for him/her the gate to life
and to eternal fellowship with you;
this we ask in the name of Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

N, go forth upon your journey from this world,
in the name of God the Father almighty, who created you;
in the name of Jesus Christ, who suffered death for you;
in the name of the Holy Spirit, who strengthens you;
in communion with the blessed saints,
and aided by angels and archangels,
and all the armies of the heavenly host.
May your portion this day be in peace,
and your dwelling the heavenly Jerusalem.  Amen.

Prayers for those who mourn

Gracious God,
surround us and all who mourn this day
with your continuing compassion.
Do not let grief overwhelm your children,
or turn them against you.
When grief seems never-ending,
take them one step at a time
along your road of death and resurrection
in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Merciful Father,
hear our prayers and comfort us;
renew our trust in your Son,
whom you raised from the dead;
strengthen our faith
that [N and] all who have died in the love of Christ
will share in his resurrection;
who lives and reigns with you,
now and for ever.  Amen.

Heavenly Father,
you have not made us for darkness and death,
but for life with you for ever.
Without you we have nothing to hope for;
with you we have nothing to fear.
Speak to us now your words of eternal life.
Lift us from anxiety and guilt
to the light and peace of your presence,
and set the glory of your love before us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Some readings

John 14.1-6
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.  And you know the way to the place where I am going.’  Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going.  How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; therefore can I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters.
He shall refresh my soul and guide me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; you have anointed my head with oil and my cup shall be full.
Surely goodness and loving mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

One night I had a dream.
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Across the sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand:
one belonged to me, and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened
at the very lowest and saddest times in my life.
This really bothered me and I questioned the Lord about it:
‘Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you would walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that
during the most troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why in times when I needed you most,
you would leave me.’
The Lord replied:
‘My precious, precious child,
I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.’

Death is nothing at all
Death is nothing at all … I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I, and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, that we still are. Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference in your tone, wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed, at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Pray, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word it always was, let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of a shadow on it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was; there is unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well.
Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918)
Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral

What is dying? I am standing on the sea shore. A ship sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean. She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her until at last she fades on the horizon, and someone at my side says, ‘She is gone’ Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination. The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, ‘she is gone’ there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up the glad shout, ‘there she comes’ – that is dying.
Bishop Brent

They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Lawrence Binyon

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall softly upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

May the souls of the departed,
through the mercy of God,
rest in peace, and may they rise in glory. Amen.

Church Burial Records

Records of burials within the churchyard of Holy Trinity have been kept for several hundred years and these can be very helpful in the tracing of family histories.  Some years ago Parish Churches were required to deposit old record books in the County Archives Office in Matlock and you can access the records of Holy Trinity Parish Church there. A charge is made for an inspection of the current church burial register which is kept in the church.

In addition, a few years ago, a plan was made of the churchyard marked graves, together with a record of the grave inscriptions. Copies of these are available for inspection in church on the table near to the door.

The contact details for the County Archives Office in Matlock are:
Derbyshire Record Office
County Hall
tel: 01629 538347 

Holy Trinity Parish Church Funeral Fees 2023
Service in Church
Funeral Service in church, followed by a burial or cremation£249.00
Verger         £  50.00  
Organist £  80.00  
Total £379.00
No Service in Church
Service at crematorium or cemetery, including burial of body or cremated remains£217.00
Burial of Ashes at a later date
Committal only£32.00