Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Been to any good funerals lately?

It's good to hear that the CofE is extending the work it did on the Weddings Project to baptisms and funerals. There's a (false) assumption that, just because vicars do a lot of baptisms, weddings and funerals, that we're good at them. Now the CofE is to find out what people really value (or otherwise) in the way we handle these important and sensitive times in people's lives.

The Independent has a slightly more jaundiced take on it. Yes of course, if the church starts doing things better, one side-effect may be an increase in demand, but I hope that's not the main reason. With around 140,000 baptisms and 175,000 funerals done by churches each year, it makes perfect sense to look at how we can do better, and identify 'best practice'.

It would also be fab if some decent new baptism preparation resources emerged from this. There is precious little out there at the moment - I've long since given up on the CPAS baptism video, and am still experimenting with different approaches to help people talk about what baptism means to them and what kind of faith they have.

Having a third party gather feedback will be invaluable - I try to find out how people engaged (or otherwise) with the services I lead, but to be honest you're not going to tell the vicar to his face that he was awful are you? Are you?

PS in respect of the title, I think you can have a 'good funeral', and that's its possible to die well and grieve well. All of it is painful, but it can be an occasion for grace too. I'm not sure where exiting the crematorium to Tom Jones singing 'Sex Bomb' falls in all of that, but I certainly remember it...


  1. I do agree that there is little good preparation material for baptisms.

    Isn't part of the problem that church & parents very often are coming to the service with completely different assumptions? How do we bring the two sets closer in a preparation course?

  2. It may be that they're not reconcilable - some churches steer families towards a thanksgiving service, as it's clear that the parents don't really 'turn to Christ' or 'submit to Christ' in any meaningful sense.

    The more preparation you do, the more the assumptions will converge, but that will also put people off. We regularly get enquiries about baptism by phone or email, but then when we ask the (fairly minimal) step of coming along on a Sunday morning, there are quite a few families we then never hear from again.

  3. Seems to be a problem of nominalism to Christianity and the CofE to an extent perpetuating it.... some faith might really be the issue.