Chaplains are quite often called upon to conduct weddings and occasionally baptisms. Working in a hospice can mean that these are often comparatively simple services, and usually organised at very short notice. There can be considerable scope for creativity, and also for including the wider hospice team in helping to make a special occasion even more memorable. The Registrars are usually very helpful in getting the paperwork sorted for a marriage ceremony, and in arranging the dispensations needed for what can be a same-day event. Because there are different legal systems, there are different guidelines available for England and Wales, and for Scotland. [We would appreciate some guidelines for Northern Ireland]
Church of England chaplains may find that there can be tensions between organisational and church requirements over weddings and funerals. The official ‘Church of England Guidance‘ is available here.
Chaplains are also quite often involved with funerals, though the extent of their role can differ quite widely from hospice to hospice. While hospice weddings typically are much more short-notice than usual, there’s often more opportunity than usual to plan ahead for a funeral, and many patients find it helpful to have the opportunity to leave some clear wishes as to what they would like to happen.
How I would like my funeral to be is an easy-to-use sheet for use with patients and families. NB It’s highly recommended to lodge a copy with the patient notes in case the original gets mislaid.
There’s also an increasing awareness of how expensive funerals can be, and chaplains can have a useful role in providing impartial funeral advice, whether or not they will be involved with the actual service, and Twenty-one Ways to Reduce Costs provides some ideas to help patients and families to work out in advance what they really want.
Also, there can be a bewildering amount of paperwork to be done, when most people feel least like tackling it, and while a Who to Contact checklist doesn’t avoid this, it can help to have a clear idea of what needs to be done, and where to start.
Not everyone can get to a funeral, and the Covid-19 situation has both increased the likelihood of this distressing situation happening and highlighted the need to respond with alternative provision. Many Funeral Directors and Crematoria are developing or improving streaming facilities, which may well provide long-term benefit as more families are separated by considerable distance. David Buck at Wheatfield has published Funerals and Social Isolation, in response to this.
The Church of England has published a useful and simple home-based liturgy or reflection for friends and family who are currently unable to attend a funeral service
The loss of a baby is always extremely painful, and we’re grateful to Mark Stobert (CHCC) for some funeral resources which may be helpful: a baby blessing; words for naming a baby; a funeral service for a baby, and a non-theistic funeral service for a baby.