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Tales of clergy who ‘won’t take funerals’

24 August 2012


From the Revd James Ogley
Sir, - The description of many incumbents as lazy in Canon John Goodchild's letter ( Letters, 17 August) was, in my view, somewhat unfair, and demonstrated a lack of understanding of the realities of parish ministry these days.

I am a relatively new incumbent (my first anniversary in post is next week), but the situation I found when I took up my current post was the same as in my curacy parish. I observe anecdotally that it is replicated across the country.

All too often, funeral directors contact ministers, having already arranged funerals with families, the date and time already set in stone with local crematoria. (I even had one funeral director arrange a date and time with a family for a service at my church without contacting me.)

No consideration is given to whether the minister may be available at that time before making contact. Without never making appointments of any kind, we cannot guarantee to be available for every funeral that may come in. Incumbents are very busy - as Canon Goodchild no doubt recalls. For those of us with staff to manage and curates to supervise and train, this busyness is increased.

Mercifully, in Luton, some funeral directors are now making "tentative" arrangements with families before contacting me, at least - and, I hope, my colleagues across the town; but it is simply unfair and inaccurate to describe as lazy incumbents who are treated in this way by funeral directors.

On the whole, we are keen to officiate at funerals for parishioners - whether it is we or other members of our pastoral staff who do so - as part of our mission in our areas and to provide the very important pastoral follow-up.

It is worth noting, too, that funeral fees do not simply go to the incumbent of the parish, to supplement the stipend, as Canon Goodchild implies. They are assigned to the dioceses, and so benefit all ministers - lazy or otherwise.
St Francis' Vicarage, 145 Hollybush Road, Luton LU2 9HQ


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