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Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Specialised funeral training for Readers

Readers and trainee readers at the funeral workshop
In the Church of England funerals are normally conducted by the clergy. Canon law does provide for the possibility of Readers (Licensed Lay Ministers) conducting funerals if the Reader has been authorised so to do by the bishop. In this diocese such authorisation is given to Readers following the satisfactory completion of extra training. In so many of our chaplaincies, this ministry is highly valued and indeed where there is a great volume of funerals and where there are large distances to cover, duly authorised Readers perform an essential pastoral service. 

The specialised training is delivered under the supervision of our Director of Reader Ministry, the Revd Canon Elaine Labourel, in periodic residential worshops. Last June, one such workshop was held at St Columba’s, Woking. Canon Labourel was assisted by the Revd Canon Paul Omrod, the Chaplain of St George's Madrid. Eighteen Lay Ministers and Lay Ministers in training came together from all over the Diocese.

Sometimes there are questions about why such specialised training is required before authorisation for funeral ministry is given. Canon Labourel says "The way in which the church deals with one funeral may establish or destroy the confidence of the community. So this is a very important ministry at at time when the deepest questions are on the minds of the mourners. Sensitive and sound teaching and careful liturgical and ritual leadership are absolutely necessary, all of which calls for a lot of responsibilty on the part of those who undertake this ministry. Each funeral is as much for the wider community as it is for the closed circle of minister and mourner."

The training given by Canon Labourel starts with understanding the grief journey and moves through the resources we have in Common Worship which include a wide range of liturgical rites to come alongside people in mourning. During the workshop there is also a sharing of the cultural differences in funeral ministry in the various locations around the diocese. Of course, as in all our Reader residential programmes, the sessions are interspersed with times of worship in the chapel and times of fellowship over breaks and meals.


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