Ministry in bereavement should always be approached as a privilege, especially with those who have had little or no previous contact with the Church. Through our ministry to people in a time of loss we have an unparalleled opportunity to share in their lives, as well as to bear witness to a gospel of hope to many who would not otherwise hear the Christian message. Country clergy will know that their credibility in the community hinges very much upon the conduct of this ministry.

We must make ourselves available for this ministry and be willing to invest time. Good relationships with an undertaker will minimise arrangements that are inconvenient. However, there will be times when a funeral needs to be taken on a designated day off.

No matter what the circumstances, the following ministry should be offered.

The Service

It is good for people to speak in honour of the loved one, but you should take responsibility for the length and balance of the service. The resources in APBA are valuable. For instance, the placing of symbols, as provided for in APBA, enables the grieving family to give tangible within the service expression to their grieving and love.

Families will often seek the inclusion of RSL or Masonic rites. It is appropriate for the RSL rite to be used, especially at the graveside. However, it is best to keep this as a distinct rite as far as possible, with the clergy person saying the final prayer and blessing.

Some clergy have strong feelings about the Masonic service. However, if in your ministry with the bereaved it becomes clear that this rite is important for the family, then grace should prevail. However, once again it should be held as a distinct rite, preferably at the graveside.

Pastoral care

The pastoral care of a family following bereavement is a great privilege and opportunity. The involvement of lay members of the parish during the weeks and months after a funeral is to be encouraged. The marking of birthdays and anniversaries is important.

Committal of ashes

Human remains should be returned to the ground. It accords with the principle of “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust” for the remains of the departed to be returned to the earth rather than permanently set apart in niches within a columbarium wall. The following guidelines may be of assistance to parishes who desire to develop such Memorial Lawns or Gardens:

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