FUNERALS in the Churches of the UPPER ITCHEN BENEFICE
A funeral marks the close of a human life on earth. It is the opportunity for friends and family to express their grief, to give thanks for the life which has now completed its journey in this world and to commend the person into God’s keeping. As far back into history as we can penetrate, human beings seem to have felt the need for a ceremonial leave-taking of those who have died. The funeral service of the Church of England can be very short and quiet with only a few members of the family present or an occasion of great solemnity with music, hymns and a packed church.
The funeral service will reflect the personality of the one who has died and the circumstances of their death. Feelings of grief, gratitude, joy and sadness often intermingle. Sometimes, a sense of tragedy is uppermost, especially when it is a young person who has died. When it is the end of a long and fruitful life, the feelings of thanksgiving can be strongest. There are times when the death of a faithful Christian seems to be the consummation of all they have lived for and the funeral service is a triumphal departure for their true home. Funeral services always raise profound questions about the meaning of life and death. Jesus himself believed in a life-giving God: ‘the God of the living, not of the dead’. Christians believe that Christ’s resurrection is the triumph of good over evil and of life over death and has made eternal life available to us.
Services in the Upper Itchen parishes
The rector, or another priest, or sometimes a reader, will be happy to take a service in any of the parish churches or at the crematorium. Everyone who lives in this benefice has a right to a funeral service and to burial in their local churchyard. (At Hinton Ampner the churchyard is full and burials now take place in the burial ground which is situated half way down Hinton Hill.) In cases of a cremation, the ashes may be interred in the local churchyard where there is a designated area. This may take place the next day or whenever appropriate.
As soon as possible please make contact with the rector, and he or the minister who is taking the service will visit promptly and help you plan the service, whether this is in church or at the crematorium. This is an important part of our work, and we will give families as much time as necessary in their time of loss. One of our parish visitors is willing to call after the service to offer continued support. Funeral directors are also a great strength and with their experience can offer much good advice. We are very fortunate with the undertakers who arrange funerals in this benefice.
All Souls’ Commemoration
For several years now we invite the families of those whose loved one has died in the previous year or two to attend an annual service of remembrance on All Souls’ Day, 2nd November, usually at Hinton Ampner Church. The names of all those remembered are read out within the service and relatives come forward and light a candle. Many also bring a single lily and add it to a display near the candle-stand, so that in the quietness of the occasion we can breathe the fragrance and remember those who have gone before us into God’s eternal care.