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Funereal findings

24 August 2012

THE Great Budworth deanery, in Chester diocese, became concerned at the falling number of church funerals, and the Anglican Chaplain at the University of Chester, the Revd Ian Delinger, suggested that students at the Padgate site, who were taking a marketing degree, might try to discover what could be done about it.

The idea was taken up, and students and parish clergy worked closely together under the project management of the Revd Jane Proudfoot (above), a former curate at Stockton Heath, and soon to become Rector of Grappenhall, Warrington. They questioned 150 members of the public, together with funeral directors and the clergy themselves.

The result has been a report, The Funeral Project, which chronicles the strengths of Church of England funerals, including the pastoral and bereavement care, the value put on tradition and community, and the trust that people place in the clergy. But they also found weaknesses and misconceptions. There is some public perception that church services are outdated and inflexible about what can be included in a funeral service; and some clergy seem inaccessible.

The report recommends that clergy should have further training to help them better to meet public expectations, and also that the Church should encourage people to plan in advance, with the help of the clergy, what they want for their funeral.

Mrs Proudfoot found that working with the students was challenging, but also very rewarding. "The students, none of whom have church connections, saw much of value in what the Church already does to guide and help people through this most difficult time. [They] have become passionate about changing and challenging misconceptions about church funeral services.

"It has been great to work with them, and to make the connections between the local church and students at the university."


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