• Funerals

    Practical help with bereavement and planning a funeral service: for the churches at Norton sub Hamdon, West Chinnock, Chiselborough and Middle Chinnock

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.
The funeral service of the Church of England can 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.
Whatever the pattern of service, the words and actions all speak of a loving God and the preciousness to Him of every human being.

Questions of life and death

The funeral service will reflect the personality of the one who has died and the circumstances of their death. Feelings of grief, gratitude, joy and sadness often intermingle.
Funeral services always raise profound questions about the meaning of life and death. Jesus himself believed in a life-giving God: 'the God of the living, not of the dead.' Christians believe that Christ's resurrection is the triumph of good over evil and of life over death and has made eternal life available to all.

Arranging a funeral

The person who has died may have left instructions, either in their Will or to a family member, describing the sort of funeral arrangements they hoped for. Naturally, everyone 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 dead person have not been church-goers.
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.

What do I have to do?

Contact Funeral Director

These often advertise in parish magazines and are listed in the phonebook. You should seek someone with local knowledge. Local friends or clergy may be able to advise. The FD will usually respond with an early arrangement to visit.

Contact Peter

This can be done directly or through the FD. They will also make an early arrangement to visit.

Register death

The FD will advise on the legal preliminaries. Even if there is to be an inquest it is important to make early contact with an FD.

What are the Options for Service?

There are several options now used which are listed below. The factors that will help determine which is most appropriate will include the known wishes of the deceased, whether there is a reserved plot for burial or cremation, what the family practice has been, and how many people are likely to attend. The most frequently used options are 1, 2 and 5.

  • service in church and burial in churchyard
  • service in church followed by crem service, subsequent burial of ashes in churchyard
  • service in church followed by crem service, ashes buried at crem 
  • service in church followed by crem service, ashes retained  by Funeral Director or family
  • service directly at crem, subsequent burial of ashes in churchyard
  • service directly at crem, ashes buried at crem
  • service directly at crem, ashes retained  by Funeral Director or family 
  • service directly at crem, subsequent memorial service - same day or later, with or without ashes
  • service in church concluding with committal; followed by service at crem with only the FD and minister, or only FD

Arrangements for Burials


The churchyards at all 4 churches are Open. Those who were living in the parish or who died in the parish  have an absolute right to burial if there is still space. The PCCs will have a policy on whether burial grounds accept people outside this category who have a good reason for desiring such burial. Arrangements are usually made by the FD – there may be some choice in the location.


The ashes may be interred with plaques in each of the churchyards.

Headstones and Plaques

Each burial authority has its own regulations. Essentially any memorials should conform in appearance to the norm for the burial area and contain information that readily identifies the person. You will need to contact a Monumental Mason (and the FD and clergy can give advice); with him you will prepare a proposal which will need to be approved by the vicar.


The FD will give you a breakdown of the costs involved before any services take place.

Possible Hymns

These are the most commonly used:

  • The Lord's My Shepherd
  • Abide with me
  • The day thou gavest
  • Immortal invisible God only wise
  • The old rugged cross
  • Dear Lord and Father of mankind
  • For all the saints
  • Glorious things of thee are spoken
  • Great is thy faithfulness
  • How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
  • In heavenly love abiding
  • Jesus lives! Thy terrors now
  • Lead kindly light
  • Lord of all hopefulness
  • Love divine
  • My song is love unknown
  • Now thank we all our God
  • O Lord my God (How great thou art)
  • O love that wilt not let me go
  • Praise my soul, the king of heaven
  • The King of love my shepherd is
  • Thine be the glory

Sentences from the Bible

  • Jesus said, 'I am the resurrection, and I am the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. John 11:25-26
  • Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10
  • We brought nothing into the world, and we take nothing out. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away: blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 1:21
  • Jesus said, 'Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted'. Matthew 5:4
  • I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor ...things present, nor things to come,.. nor anything else in all creation, will ever be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:38-39
  • Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9
  • Jesus said, 'Set your troubled hearts at rest, you trust in God don't you? Trust in me as well. In my Father's house are many rooms ... and I am going to prepare a place for you' John 14:1-2
  • I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes - I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!  Job 19:25-27
  • I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33
  • I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

Possible Readings

  • Psalm 23      
    'The Lord's my shepherd'
  • John 14:1-6 
    Jesus and disciples on evening before his death. 'Set your troubled hearts at rest'...'I am the way, the truth and the life'
  • 1 Cor 15 (various verses)          
    The meaning of the resurrection
  • 1 Thess 4:13-18          
    'We would not have you ignorant about those who have died'
  • John 11:17-27             
    I am the resurrection and the life
  • Psalm 121    
    'I lift up my eyes to the hills'             
  • Romans 8:31-39        
    Nothing can separate us from the love of God
  • Rev 21:1-7   
    A new heaven and a new earth
  • Ecclesiastes  3:1-11 
    A time for everything
  • You may also want to have a specific prayer included, or a non-biblical reading or poem – examples are found below.

How do I face the Future?

A timetable of grief

The death of a friend or family member brings more than Financial needs. In general people go through stages of grief similar to the following -

  • Shock - muscular weakness, emptiness, inner tension
  • Numbness - everything seems unreal and remote
  • Struggle between fantasy and reality - difficult to accept death
  • Feelings of guilt, panic or frenzy
  • Depression - possible loss of appetite, lack of interest, trembling, insomnia.
  • Release - shedding of tears, release of grief
  • Facing up to memories
  • Acceptance.

This process will often take at least a year - going through the first Christmas, first wedding anniversary, first holiday alone etc.

Spiritual needs

Death brings relationships to an end - Jesus knew that and wept at his friend's graveside. But the message of the Bible is that our relationship with God does not come to end at death. Jesus declared, at the graveside of that friend, "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me; though he die yet shall he live, and who ever believes in me shall never die”.

For many people the death of a friend causes them to consider anew the reality of death. The realisation that we are more than bodies but have a mind and soul as well will mean that we want answers to our Spiritual questions. ( Some of the readings and prayers above may be helpful). The clergy, or other church members, are always happy to spend time with the bereaved.

There is an annual service in one of the churches around All Souls time (November 2nd) – this is specially prepared for those who have been bereaved. In addition to the Funeral Service the church has prayers and services that can be used around the time of death and the funeral
These include:

  • Ministry at the time of death
  • At home before the funeral
  • For those unable to be present at the service
  • Receiving the coffin at church before the funeral
  • A funeral vigil
  • On the morning of the funeral
  • Special services relating to the death of a child or baby
  • Funerals in the context of a communion service
  • At home after the funeral
  • Various options for a memorial service

If these might be appropriate in your situation please let Peter know