A funeral marks the close of a human life on earth. It is the opportunity for friends and family to express their grief, to give thanks for the life which has now completed its journey in this world and to commend the person into God's keeping.
As far back into history as we can penetrate, human beings seem to have felt the need for a ceremonial leave-taking of those who have died.
A funeral service in the Church of England - whether in a parish church or a crematorium chapel - may be very short and quiet with only a few members of the family present, or an occasion of great solemnity with music, hymns and a packed church. A funeral may also be set within a celebration of Holy Communion.
Whatever the pattern of service, the words and actions all speak of a loving God and the preciousness to him of every human being.
Arranging a funeral
The person who has died might 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 have not been church-goers. Nor do practising Christians always realise that they can have a Communion service as part of the funeral.
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.
The funeral director plays a very important part in all these arrangements and will want to know if the funeral is to be in the parish church or if the minister is to take the service in the crematorium. Funeral directors know the local ministers, the local cemeteries and the crematoria. As part of a national network of funeral directors, they can, if necessary, give advice on funerals in other parts of the country, as well as on costs and fees.
Burials and cremations
In Bushbury burials now take place in the local cemetery. These days, six out of ten funerals make use of the crematorium. This leaves the question of what is to be done with the ashes. Crematoria have gardens of rest where they can be buried. When this burial takes place, usually a few days after the funeral, a further very brief service can be held if the family wish it and some suitable commemorative mark or record may be made.