Last week I was covering for my supervisor who was on holiday. Once again the week threw up a number of situations which, on reflection, were great for those little “I must remember that in future” moments.
They all centred round two funerals which came in mid-week. The first one was requested for a time I normally pop in to the local primary school. I thought for a moment and opted to prioritise the funeral but with the caveat that I may need to reschedule if ongoing electrical work in the church wasn’t finished. I checked with the property convener and the work was scheduled to finish that day so the church would not be available. I got back to the funeral director, explained the situation and offered to postpone it until the following day or just have the full service at the crematorium.
I was actually quite glad in a way because it meant that I didn’t need to renege on my school visit. I am enjoying going in to the local primary school and working with the P4 classes. At the moment it’s largely supporting their ‘social’ curriculum subject (bullying and relationships) rather than specifically religious education, but that’s fine. It helps get me recognised in the school and be part of the life of the school. I think that, in future, this is just as solid a commitment as a funeral request and only if there were no other options would I prioritise one over the other. That said, prioritising is inevitable. What did end up suffering were some planned (but not arranged) pastoral visits.
Anyway, as it happened, the funeral got bumped back a day and the phone call to confirm that also contained a request for another funeral on the same day – another church and crematorium one. The bizarre thing was that I had been saying that a church+crem funeral was the only combination I had not yet done and didn’t have a liturgy for. And, somewhat like buses, along come two on the same day. There was also the added ‘stress factor’ of them both boing in the afternoon, with half an hour (notionally) to get from the crem back to the church for funeral number two. It’s a 15 minute drive in daytime traffic and, allowing for the shorter service at the crem, I thought it was feasible.
It was, but only just. The crem service before my first one was huge. It did finish pretty much on time, but it took ages to clear the service room. We didn’t get in until about 10 minutes after our scheduled start time. A little bit of selective reading of the liturgy ensued and I was on my way back to the church after what was only just not an indecent time. I had already explained to the family that I would probably need to leg it off quickly and they understood when I said a brief word to them and the end and ran across the car park.
Lesson number two, therefore, was always overestimate the allowed time between funerals.
There was a third lesson and something that was avoidable and I’m a bit annoyed with myself for not considering it. It wasn’t anything earth-shattering, but it was annoying. The second family had mentioned to me that they would be getting orders of service printed but the hymns they had chosen were in CH4, so it was the CH4 numbers I gave to our organist. The orders of service arrived with the funeral cortège and, as the family and coffin were arriving together, this was just before the service was due to start. The duty team then distributed the orders of service to the mourners who had arrived but I forgot to pick one up and also to hand one to the organist.
Somewhat inevitably there were ‘mismatches’ in what was played and what was in the order of service. The printed version of the first hymn had an extra verse and the last verse of the second hymn had different word from CH4, so anyone using the hymn book (me, for example) would be wondering what we were singing by the last verse.
So, a useful one for the memory bank – check that the printed order is what you expect and have agreed on.
In the end both funerals went well, I believe, and I now have a liturgy for church +crem that I’m happy with and I know works both for content and time. This is yet another week that falls into the category of “you cannae buy this sort of experience.” That has become something of a catchphrase for my supervisor.