Creating a Useful Folder
If you are a Minister reading this, remember that you may have planned, and been to, many funerals or thanksgivings, whereas the people you are going to see may never have been to any, yet alone been involved in planning one. Because this puts you at a great advantage over the other, you may be seen as the ‘expert’. They may feel very unsure as to what to suggest. One of the first things you can do to help them is to provide a folder of resources. In the folder you can also include sample services that other people have used so they have some idea and see what others have chosen before. Give them the folder some time before your visit so they have had some time to go through it at leisure. They may well know of something they would like, but not know what it is. “You know the poem they read at the Queen Mother’s funeral?”, or “that hymn that Cat Stevens sang”. If families have time to think what they want then the time you spend with them will be much easier, and they may feel more relaxed, and able to say what they would like.
This is a ‘living’ folder that will frequently be added to and revised. Gather material from every source that you have available. Use plastic pockets in the folder, putting several photocopies of each resource in each pocket. Those planning the service can then take out what they think they might use and share these with other members of their families, and you can take the folder home again.
There are many websites which have readings for funerals and thanksgivings. There are many books. You can choose Bible readings, secular readings, poems and a selection of reflections. See Bible Readings for Funerals and see Secular Readings and Blessings for Funerals.
Hymns, Songs and Music
Put the words of a selection of favourite hymns and songs in this section – but also mention that there are countless others just as suitable. You can also suggest a selection of CD recordings to listen to. Once people realise what is possible, and how flexible you can be, they may feel able to suggest music that speaks particularly of the person who has died. By showing them what is possible you empower them to create the right ‘goodbye’ for their loved one. Suggestions can also include contemporary, jazz, and classical pieces. One family had a CD of bird song to play during the service. This had been a great passion of the man who had died. See Hymns and Songs for Funerals and see Recorded Music for Funerals.
See Ideas for Memorial and Thanksgiving for a Young Person for some suggested ‘symbolic’ actions that can be used in a service (and not just for a young person) – you can include some of these ideas in the file along with ideas of your own.
Even if the family has requested ‘no flowers’ in the funeral announcement they may want to put something in the church themselves or talk to the church flower arrangers. Flowers are often wanted for a memorial or thanksgiving service – using the church flower arrangers can be a way for the local church community to be involved.
Many people like to put small cards in the church for people to sign. Then the family will know who has been there. It is sometimes hard to remember after the event. Instead of this, some people put a book at the church door. People can write short signed messages for the family.