Clergy touching coffin and link to Funerals page


At one of life’s most difficult moments, families need efficient organisation and administration along with sensitive pastoral care. This page offers resources to help you with the administration and legal aspects of funerals with links for more on the pastoral and missional opportunities.  

Page Contents

Working with others

Ministers will usually be working with a Funeral Director to coordinate the arrangements for church-led funerals. It is therefore essential to establish good working relationships with local Funeral Directors and let them know what the church offers. This ensures they are clear that a church-led funeral is open to all, regardless of whether the person who died was a regular church attender or not. If the person who died lived in the parish or was on the church electoral roll, they also have an automatic right to a burial plot in the churchyard (if it is still open for burials and subject to space being available).  

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First contact with a family and data collection

You will need to collect the necessary data to arrange the funeral and keep in touch with the family. The Life Events Diary on the Church Organiser can support you in collecting and storing this data, and help you keep in touch with the family afterwards, providing they give you permission to do so, under GDPR. 

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Locations for funerals

A church-led funeral can take place in one or more of the following locations (funeral logistics may mean moving from one location to another):  

  1. Church building 
  1. Churchyard  
  1. Municipal cemetery  
  1. Crematorium 
  1. Green/woodland burial site. 
  1. Funeral Director’s premises – see the Legal opinion and guidance on Funerals in undertakers’ private chapels on the Church of England website. 

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Burial formalities

Before the burial of a body may take place in a churchyard, the minister taking the service must be satisfied that a Certificate of Disposal for the body (green form) has been issued by the Registrar of Births and Deaths, or a corresponding Order made by the coroner. It is evidence that the death has been registered and authorises disposal of the body.

Where the location requires burial of a body or interment of ashes in un-consecrated ground (options 3-5 of locations for funerals), you must first bless the grave – see Canon B 38, paragraph 5 and Common Worship Pastoral Services p.296.

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Fees and charges

The most up to date parochial fees for funerals can be found on the Church of England website. Usually, church fees are added to the Funeral Director’s total bill, and they will forward any fees owed to your PCC.  

The statutory fee for a funeral service in church covers all that is necessary to have a funeral in church – i.e. routine administration (including arranging dates and times and the making of entries in registers), making the church available and lighting it. You cannot inflate the set fee or charge extra for any item in the fees table, regardless of the size of your church. 

Anything that a family may wish to have in addition to the standard provisions are optional extras which the family must be free to choose or decline. Extras can include provisions for heating if needed, the services of a verger, hiring the church choir or musicians, or having flowers supplied and arranged by the church. Families are not obliged to choose any of these elements for the funeral, but if they do, you may charge  extra accordingly.  

See the Church of England’s Legal Advisory Commission paper on Additional Charges for Weddings and Funerals.  

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Bereavement and remembering

Policies and legal requirements around churchyard burials, headstones/memorials and the internment of cremated remains can be discussed in advance with your PCC. TO help you with general guidance, the key information covering these matters can be found on the Church of England website. Be aware that the detailed rules which must be followed differ between dioceses. Your diocesan registrar and Diocesan Advisory Committee will be able to help you where relevant.

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More resources for funerals

From Church Support Hub

Other Resources

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Who can take a church-led funeral?

A Church of England funeral can be taken by a member of the clergy who has authority to officiate (i.e. who is a rector or vicar or who is licensed or has PTO).  A reader who is specially authorised by the bishop to conduct funerals may also do so “with the goodwill of the persons responsible and at the invitation of the minister of a parish” (see Canon E 4.2A).  It is strongly recommended that all those who take funerals in the parish are trained, (including training in the relevant Safeguarding level according to your diocesan policy). The person or team taking funerals should also build a good working relationship with local Funeral Directors. Training support should primarily come from the incumbent and diocesan training. There is also learning available for conducting funerals well on the Church Support Hub. Private celebrant training may be useful for general interest, though it will not cover church-led funerals specifically.  

How do I find out how many spaces are left in our churchyard? And how long would it be before we could re-use a plot?

Your Diocesan Advisory Committee should be able to help you with these queries. 

Can people reserve a burial plot in our churchyard?

If there are spaces left and the churchyard is still open for burials, it may be possible to reserve a plot. Your PCC may wish to discuss policies around who may reserve a plot, taking into consideration the capacity and the rate at which the churchyard is filling up. A Faculty will be required, so you will need to contact your diocesan registry for the necessary form. There is likely to be a cost to the person applying for the reservation to cover the legal administration, and the reservation will be time limited and usually lasts around 30 years – your diocesan registrar should be able to advise on this, and any other diocesan policies you need to be aware of.  Plots must not be reserved informally (i.e. without obtaining a faculty); doing so can give rise to difficult situations when a person dies and finds that they have no legal right to be buried in a particular plot. 

Can a minister allow a non-religious funeral to take place in their church?

A non-Christian funeral is not permitted in a church, but it is worth bearing in mind that a family looking for a totally non-Christian funeral cannot really achieve that in a church anyway - by its very nature, the building, the furnishings, the stained glass etc, all speak of the Christian faith. Apart from services which include formal worship, a church may be host to many non-religious community events like fetes, exercise classes, coffee mornings, etc, as a way of welcoming all, provided they are not inconsistent with the consecrated nature of a church as a place specially set aside for Christian worship. And there is no reason why a minister can’t support any bereaved family in their parish, simply by being there for them, offering sympathy, prayer and a listening ear before and after, even if they don’t have a Church of England funeral.

Can a minister allow a non-religious funeral to take place in their churchyard?

Yes, subject to the requirements of the Burial Laws Amendment Act 1880.  Those responsible for arranging the funeral must give at least 48 hours notice in writing of their intention that a burial should take place without a Church of England service.  The notice should be in the form set out in Schedule A to the Act.  If such a notice is given, the funeral may then take place without a Church of England service, and with some other form of Christian service or no religious service at all.  Non-Christian religious services cannot be held in a churchyard. 

Does a Church of England funeral have to have a commendation?

If the Common Worship funeral service is used, the service must include a prayer of entrusting or commending the departed to God’s mercy: the commendation is not an optional part of the service.  The Series One burial service provides the option of including words of commendation in the prayer of committal.  There is no explicit commendation in the burial service in the Book of Common Prayer. 

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Last updated

First published June 2024 / Next review date June 2025