On 9 February, Bishop Robert licensed six new Funeral Ministers, marking an exciting step for the Church of England and the Diocese.
Diocese of Gloucester Funerals is a new service aimed at giving a 24-hour response to funeral directors, to help them streamline the process of booking funeral celebrants. To support the increased number of funerals, the Diocese of Gloucester is training a number of specialist funeral ministers who will support families to plan their funeral service, lead the service and follow up with bereavement support for as long as is needed.
The first licensing of the dedicated funeral ministers was conducted during a Eucharist at Gloucester Cathedral and was followed by a gathering for drinks and cake to celebrate. Lizzie Jones, one of the new Funeral Ministers, shares her story of being called to this ministry.
“I’m a mum of three children, who are ten, seven and five. Before having children, I was a Retail Bank Manager, earning a good salary and working long hours, but when I became a mum I gave up work to look after them. I had not attended church for many years when I became a mum, but I felt strongly that I wanted my children to grow up to have a relationship with God, so I started attending church again with them.”
Through connecting in with her local church, St Mary’s Thornbury, Lizzie found support and encouragement to explore her own faith.
“I talked to my children about God, tried to teach them to open their hearts and let Him in, to pray. Gradually, I started to do so more myself, snatching time to pray. Then my father’s parents died and soon after that my parents split up, after 50 years together. We have an amazing community in my local benefice. The clergy (both the current and previous vicars and the retired ministers) and the congregation as a whole have taught me so much and helped me through what was a hugely emotionally painful time.
“I decided to take the confirmation course, but I worried I wouldn’t be able to fully commit because of how busy my life was as a mum. One of the clergy said to me: ‘Don’t you realise He knows just what your life is like’ and it made me realise there is never the right time to make such a commitment and God knows if we are trying our best. So I got confirmed and made my promises and it was a very moving, special day.”
Lizzie’s new-found faith sparked an interest in supporting the bereaved, and she embarked on training to lead funerals herself.
“My mother-in-law is a Celebrant for funerals in Devon, one of the first, and has been taking funerals for 20 years. She talks about the families she sees and I always thought it was a rewarding and worthwhile role. One day, I happened to mention that to my amazing incumbent, the Revd Joy Ludlow, and she must have recognised my interest. She invited me for coffee and asked me if I would like to explore it further and train to take funerals for the church.
“My youngest child was due to start school, so I now had the time to devote to other things. I thought it over, discussed it with my family and prayed, and decided to take the course.”
Lizzie signed up to the Funeral and Bereavement Ministry training course run by the Gloucester Funeral Project team.
“I truly feel like I have found my calling. I hope I offer support to the families I visit and that the funerals I help them put together for their loved ones give them hope in the midst of their grief.
“The course was comprehensive covering the Church of England funeral liturgy, how to personalise and be creative with a service as well as going in depth into understanding grief and the support available to those who have lost someone. The Funeral Project team have also been incredibly supportive, answering questions when I’ve needed help with a funeral.
“I’ve been terrified before every funeral, because I fully understand how important the service is to the families. I feel their love and their grief for their father, mother, uncle, aunt, daughter, son and want to help by giving their loved one a dignified, personal service where they feel the love of God and his peace. I truly believe that a good funeral can help the grieving journey. I also recognise that for many people funerals are the only time they hear the messages of the Gospel and I hope that for those people they feel welcome and understand that they, too, are loved by God.”
The next Funeral and Bereavement Ministry training course will take place on Mondays from 5 June, 7.30pm to 9.00pm at No 4 College Green, Gloucester GL1 2LR. Continuing weekly until 9 October 2023 (with a break for the summer holidays). It will also be possible to join some sessions by Zoom.
To register, please discuss with your incumbent and click here to register click here
If you are interested in knowing more about the course, please contact Nick Partridge on tel: 07970 207377 email: ku.gr1680174658o.coi1680174658dsolg1680174658@egdi1680174658rtrap1680174658n1680174658