From the Rambling Rector
Easter is early this year, and it seems to have come around really quickly. No sooner have we celebrated Christmas, the birth of Jesus and we are now celebrating his death and resurrection. Christmas is the exciting time as we experience the birth of God on earth. Easter is the climax as it provides for the forgiveness of sins and the hope of heaven, the promise of eternal life. Easter week begins on Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, a beast of burden rather than a war horse. The Last Supper on Maundy Thursday saw Jesus washing the disciples' feet and the celebration of the first Holy Communion with the command from Jesus to continue doing so, although some argue that the feeding of the 5000 was also a form of the sacrament of Communion. This was followed by the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, trial crucifixion and resurrection. A lot goes on during the week and there are several different styles of church services as we go through the different emotions of the week. It is worth going to more than one service during this week as it helps live the entirety of the Easter message. There is also a sunrise service in West Bay on Easter Sunday. You will need to check the time as it depends on the time of sunrise, but it is around 6am in the morning. Salisbury cathedral has a Chrism Mass on Maundy Thursday where the Holy Oils for prayers of healing and baptism are blessed for the coming year. If you would like any further information, please don’t hesitate in getting in contact with me.
I know I wrote most of this 3 years ago, but sometimes it is good to be reminded about how we look after our churchyards.
Within each of these villages they are treasured spaces by many people, often with family going back generations. I often take flowers that are placed at the foot of gravestones as a sign of a loved one missed. I also often say a prayer over a new set of flowers that have recently arrived. They are an important way of grieving and remembering. Please keep it up, we are all wiser because of those that have gone before.
One thing I would like to ask though is that these flowers are kept within the current churchyard regulations. There have been a few incidents recently of these rules not being adhered, and as I am sure you are aware, reminding the families that a memorial is not appropriate is not an easy task, we are all aware of the sensitivities around the placing of flowers and other mementoes, and when these are outside the regulations, there is embarrassment all around. Therefore, just for clarity, here is a brief extract of the rules:
Memorials and Monuments
Churchyards provide areas of peaceful reflection and prayer for the bereaved and for the wider community and must be easily maintainable by volunteers in the parish. As such only certain types of memorials can be permitted. Under the Churchyard Regulations the minister of the parish (Vicar, Rector, etc.) can permit certain types of memorial (there may be more restrictive local rules in some parishes). Permission needs to be granted before the introduction of any memorial. Some of the key limitations for this include:
The size, shape and material of the memorial
The type of inscription or any engraving used
Kerbs, railings, chippings, photographs and other additions such as toys or candles are not allowed.
The minister cannot permit a memorial which is not within the Regulations. Where the family would like a memorial outside the scope of the Regulations they can ask the Chancellor, the chief legal officer of the diocese, for permission (’a faculty’), although a fee is payable for this application whether or not permission is ultimately granted. Illegal memorials can cause (and have caused) significant pastoral difficulties for the future and a real sense of injustice in those who have abided by the law. With this in mind, it is important to remember that the existence of similar memorials is not, of itself, a reason for the giving of permission either by the minister or by the Chancellor.
Ownership of and Responsibility for Memorials
Although neither burial, the erection of a memorial nor the reservation of a grave space give any rights of ownership over the ground in question, a memorial remains the property of the person who commissioned it and after his death belongs to the “heir-at-law” of the person commemorated. This person is responsible for maintaining the monument in good order. Where this does not occur the Parish Church Council (PCC) may choose to take steps to ensure safety in the churchyard, but must have permission from the Chancellor for any permanent changes.
The most common breaches of these rules are the planting of bushes in the middle of the grave and the placing of chippings and surrounds. Flowers need to be placed by the headstone in a way that does not interfere with the mowing of the grass. We need to ensure the job of keeping the churchyard neat and tidy is not overly burdensome. This is for maintaining of an atmosphere of peaceful reflection for all. May I ask that you take a look at any plot that you take care of and check that it complies with these rules. It may mean removing a bush or chippings, refreshing flowers or replanting grass. Whilst not a rule, please can I ask that glass is not used in any churchyard as it is a hazard if it breaks (The Rambling Rector has cut himself trying to clear broken glass.) If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss.
May I also add a big thank you to everybody in all these villages who work hard looking after these churchyards.
And don’t forget that you can always enter our church buildings and say a prayer and /or leave a prayer request on a prayer tree.