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 the completed journey of an earthly life, and to commend the soul of the departed into God's eternal keeping.
your family's service
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 depending on your preference.
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 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 deceased person have not been church-goers. The Parish Church is the spiritual 'home' of everyone who lives within the parish of Ottery St Mary and we welcome a funeral service for your loved one.
Parish clergy regard the taking of funerals as an important part of their work. Before a funeral the family will receive a visit, in which comfort will be offered to those who are facing loss; and it can be agreed what service is desired and how it can be arranged. If the Rector 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.
You may want to have the church decorated with flowers for the funeral service. Contact the Flower Co-ordinator, Jenny Webber at
to discuss your thoughts on flowers. Payment for flowers by cheque made payable to St Mary's Church Flowers.
order of service
The service begins with the Minister reading from the scriptures. Early in the service there may be a eulogy or appreciation remembering the life of the deceased. This may be given by a family member or somebody who knew the deceased well, but as funerals are emotional services, this can be read by the minister. The address following the Bible reading and the subsequent prayers affirm the great Christian beliefs about life beyond death, which hopefully will be a comfort to those gathered. It is possible to include within the service other non-biblical readings or poems.
The prayer of Commendation recalls the promise of the resurrection and entrusts the deceased person to the love and mercy of God, asking for comfort and strength for those who mourn.
It is possible to have a private Funeral Service with the committal before gathering for a Thanksgiving or Memorial Service after this at the Parish Church, on the same day or on another occasion. The minister taking the service would be happy to discuss your Order of Service for this.
You may request for the bells to be rung before the funeral service. As funerals are normally on a weekday, please contact the Church office for availability, as many bell ringers are engaged during the day. The cost is the same as for weddings.
location of service
You may wish to have the whole service including the committal in the church, but it is possible to have the main part of the service in the church (i.e. the readings, tributes, address, prayers and commendation), and then to either go to the Cemetery or Crematorium for the service of Committal. Burials take place in Ottery Cemetery, as the Parish Churchyard was closed to new burials many years ago; cremated ashes can be buried in the churchyard at a later date. It is possible to have the funeral service at the Crematorium only, conducted by one of the parish ministers. Although rare nowadays, a funeral service can also be conducted entirely at the graveside.
The Committal takes place either at the graveside, in the crematorium chapel, or in church before the hearse leaves. In the cemetery mourners gather round the open grave into which the coffin is lowered. They will hear the words: 'We now commit his/her body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in the certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ.' Handfuls of earth are scattered on the coffin by the funeral director.
In a crematorium, the words of committal may be accompanied by the closing of a curtain to hide the coffin from view.
The committal can be a very emotional moment. Many who are suffering grief find that, even in their sadness, the words of prayer can lift them towards hope in the knowledge of life beyond death.
The offering of prayer and trust that the person is in God's safe hands can begin the process of healing the grief of loss.