From the Revd E. John Penny
Sir, — Only those of us who have experienced the death of a baby, child, or young person can begin to understand the grief of bereaved parents, and their desire for the inappropriate memorials that fail to comply with diocesan rules (News, 23 July).
Pity the incumbent who has tried to minister to these parents, and has found that the first victims of their distress are rationality and clear-minded thought. To refuse a memorial application is to invite hostility from the family and local community. Working relationships with monumental masons can be soured for many years.
The clergy of benefices with open churchyards are therefore at a considerable disadvantage compared with those who have none. They can spend many hours negotiating with the family, the archdeacon, or the DAC about the colour, size, and decoration of a gravestone. No wonder many stop trying to “hold the line”, approve all applications, and scupper their successor’s effort to maintain legality.
Now that “mission” is the key word to parochial ministry, would it not be wise to remove from the incumbents’ responsibilities those duties that successfully torpedo her or his efforts at spreading the gospel of God’s unconditional love?
For a suitable handling fee, the diocesan office could appoint someone other than the parish priest to process applications for memorials (should the incumbent wish). Clergy might then cease to be a focus of recrimination and hostility, and become the agents of desperately needed pastoral care.
Rural Dean of Wisbech Lynn
33 Church Drove, Outwell
Wisbech PE14 8RH