By continuing your visit to this site, you accept the use of cookies. These ensure the smooth running of our services. Learn more.


Is it just where I live that crematoria get cancellations?  I have just been asked to cover a funeral for another minister because the undertaker managed to secure a cancellation which means the date/time can no longer be fitted into his schedule.

When I first encountered it, I wondered if the General Resurrection had come early, albeit staged, to Loughborough, but it seems undertakers round here block book slots and then cancel the spares.  That all seems a bit, well, sick, to me.  And shows no thought for those who are asked at anything down to 12 hours notice (I jest not) to take the funerals moved to these slots. 

Many of my colleagues say no to anything under 7 days notice, out of their tradition or off their immediate patch - which means it falls to me and the guy I'm covering for to pick up these funerals.  Whilst I have a lot of sympathy with their view - and do feel the undertakers often extract the archangel - from a pastoral (and, if I'm honest, protection of the Church's public face) perspective I'm not going to say no if I can possibly avoid it.


  • I'd be really interested to see what colleagues make of this.

    For myself, I tend not to feel I can take a funeral properly without at least a few days' preparation. Maybe I'm working too slowly or being too much of a perfectionist, but at 12 hours notice I don't think I could do justice to the person or the family concerned. I'm full of admiration for colleagues who can do this with integrity, some working with a number of funerals a week and still making them pastorally significant. More than one or two a month stretches me beyond what I feel I can do well.

    I have colleagues who would unquestioningly cancel a holiday to take a funeral. I have always felt this impinges unreasonably on my family and affects more than just my own convenience or integrity.

    A lot in what I say is about expectations - probably most of them mine. I would need to change siginifcant aspects of my preparation and pastoral practice to make the necessary changes if I did more funerals or took them at shorter notice.

    The negative consequence of all this, as you say, is the image of an uncaring church saying no to a family at a time of intense sorrow and upheaval. As you say some of this is down to the working practices of funeral directors, though they too are trying to do the best for their clients as well as meeting their own business objectives.

    Similar conflicts arise when I'm asked to do weddings at times when I'm meant to be on holiday. If someone wants me to marry them on a Bank Holiday weekend when I have time booked off, my wife and daughter's right to spend time with me takes precedence for once. Does this mean the church doesn't care? How much of a life am I allowed, and how much is my family allowed to see me when other people's needs are 'greater'?

    As I say, I'd be really interested in other colleagues' views, but please tread softly. I have very real conflicts and raw feelings over this issue.

  • Hi Andy,
    you're right it is a very tricky area, and I certainly don't make a habit of doing funerals at silly amounts of notice because, like you, I think things need to be handled with dignity, care and integrity. But the few times I have done them the families have been incredibly appreciative, and I've learned to live with my own 'standard' liturgy (it gets revised now and then) into which I can slot a personalised tribute. Given it usually takes me 2-3 hours (on top of the visit) to sort the service even on that basis, I have been known to be printing orders of service at silly times of night. I am conscious that if I had a family to consider I might need to be less accommodating, and I have, on occasion, said 'no.' I have never cancelled holidays for funerals but a fair few 'days off' have gone by the board.

    In respect of weddings, I've only ever had a couple and I've been consulted before the date was finalised, so had no qualms in saying if I wasn't going to be available.

    I think that many, if not most, ministers worry about this kind of balance, and most I know err on the side of neglecting family/self. I don't think you should feel at all guilty about prioritising. My problem really lies with undertakers who I think are taking the Michael when they agree dates and times and then try to alter them expecting ministers just to rearrange their lives to fit in.

    Don't know if this helps, but I'm sure you don't need to worry about the choices you make.

  • DO NOT FEEL GUILTY! If you have holiday booked it is booked and your family need you just as much and that's that - unless it is a major crsis - sudden death and even then if there are others who can cope then let them - no minister is indispensible. After all, if you were on the other side of the world you wouldn't know and they would cope.

  • The larger funeral directors booking slots at the crematorium and then cancelling them happens here as well, although I've never been asked to take a funeral at such short notice. I don't think that I've ever said 'no' to a funeral, although I have sometimes suggested that I might not be the most appropriate person to take the funeral.

    When there has been a bereavement when I've been away on holiday, then I have occasionally come home.

    Regarding weddings, these pose no problems. They're generally booked up a long time in advance, and I've no qualms about stating my unavailability for a certain weekend if it's months in advance.

    I've occasionally had a wedding booked up three years in advance. My biggest fear then was whether I was still going to be the minister of the church at that stage so far ahead.

  • I think there is a significant difference between the funeral of Joseph, the dear member of the church, known and loved for years, and Joe Bloggs, whose family thinks he possibly went to a Baptist Sunday School in 1949[but none of them has darkened the door of a chapel since] Usually the Christian families are incredibly understanding if we have had family holidays booked - and the outsiders don't seem too fussed who actually does the service.
    Funeral fees is another matter though - I like the policy of saying "If it's 'church family' there is no Minister's Fee" - but with the other ones [particularly those pre-paid bond jobbies] the cheque from the Co-op is welcome. When the kids were younger it signified there was a treat in store for supper. So sometimes if I said Bob was out at a funeral, they would say "Is it a Takeaway one?"!

  • A 'takeaway funeral' conjures up a wonderful image! Most of my funeral income currently goes towards my university fees, but I think most ministers, if they are honest, use it for treats they might not otherwise be able to afford. Just wise not to put little memorial plagues on the consumer goods you bought with the money from Mrs Goggins' funeral!

  • Just what would a "memorial PLAGUE" be like - locusts? Hope you didn't have anyone specific in mind as deserving of one, even if it does sound scriptural!

    Thanks for the laugh. Must get back to trying to sound employable on paper now.......

  • Oh shucks! Hmm. Well if the deceased was called Mary, clearly it would have to be hail...

    I promise to write out the correct spelling twenty times...

The comments are closed.