by The Reverend Sue Nicholls
Funeral ministry at Christ Church Flamborough involves the altar guild, organist and sometimes choir; greeters in several locations from the parking lot to the church itself; the cemetery sexton, and a cemetery board member who interfaces with the sexton and funeral home; the clergy; and last but certainly not least, the Women’s Guild, who arranges the reception, on behalf of the family.
Christ Church actively supports St. Matthew’s House in Hamilton, with donations of food every week, backpacks at the end of summer, and the Christmas program supporting seniors and families. We also Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund throughout each year. We participate in the Association of Dundas Churches, with clergy and two volunteers. We also participate on the local Truth & Reconciliation Committee.
But it is the funeral ministry, especially the sharing of hospitality, that stands out, as far as I’m concerned, as the priest-in-charge since 2017. Why is it special? First of all it is in the care taken to organize the reception: The date set. Burial at Christ Church? How many people are the family expecting to attend? What time of day? What complement of food is requested? The tasks are divided up. Go! Similar to arranging any funeral reception.
I have not seen the whole preparational process. But just as we don’t see God, or Jesus or the Holy Spirit at work, but we see the effect of their love and care for us in the action of people: but I’ve seen the results of these caring women and men as they set up the tables, with table cloths and flowers.
The tables end-to-end up the centre of the parish hall soon to be laden with sandwiches, fruit and vegetable trays, squares, cookies and tarts.
Women in the kitchen preparing the sandwiches. Others cutting the squares and plating all that people have offered. There are other women plating sandwiches, squares and cookies and tarts, and vegetable trays.
Volunteers circulate as needed. Some pour coffee and tea.
Others check whether new trays of sandwiches or desserts need to be added to the table.
A care package of sandwiches and sweets is sent home with the bereaved spouse, or family members.
Why is this important? A year or so ago, a woman died. We didn’t know her. She and her husband had been living in our community less than a year. They had been meaning to come and check us out — our stone cladding being our best advertisement — however, the woman died of cancer a couple of days before I met her spouse. The funeral was large, with people from several cities to the east of our parish, and beyond. The friends, coworkers and family members couldn’t believe the love and care extended to the family, by virtue of preparing a reception. The food was all fresh and prepared by the Women’s Guild. The food table was always refreshed in a quiet and unassuming way.
As you are reading this, you may say that Christ Church Flamborough isn’t doing anything different than you are doing at your church. This may be what many or all the parishes in our diocese do when they host a funeral reception. However, the reaction of the people attending this reception was one of amazement: that all the work and the fresh food were prepared for someone they didn’t know, who didn’t attend the parish.
This happens over and over again. It’s sometimes hard to make funeral receptions happen in the midst of other planned events, people’s vacations, etc. However, even when adjustments need to be made to the usual routine, the love and care extended by all the volunteers who make the reception happen, continues to be amazing.