‘First’ for Diocese

‘First’ for Diocese, as Tonbridge Pastoral Assistant receives permission to conduct funerals

On 24th June, Archdeacon Julie Conalty licensed Edith Wills, as the Diocese’s first lay worker permitted to conduct funerals. An experienced Pastoral Assistant at St Stephen’s Tonbridge, Edith will now be able to provide much needed extra support around funerals in her parish.

Unlike Readers or Licenced Lay Ministers who can conduct funerals once they have completed the relevant training and had their license endorsed by the Bishop, Pastoral Assistants do not have a license that can usually be endorsed in such a way.

However, Edith felt a very strong calling to funeral and bereavement ministry and so having undertaken the relevant diocesan training, was presented for licensing by Deputy Warden of Lay Ministry, Allan Jonnes. She described the experience as ‘both exciting and awe-inspiring’:

“For me this is an especially important ministry to those who may not be part of the regular congregation.

“I feel called to stand alongside the sad and sorrowful, to listen to what they want and to help them to have a service which is respectful and dignified for the person they have lost, but above all is honouring to God, sharing his promise of love and hope of eternal life.”

Karen Senior, Warden of Lay Ministry said that this was a further example of the Diocese exploring creative ways in which lay people can be freed to serve God and their communities:

“We currently have almost 100 Readers and LLMs authorised to conduct funerals, and we will continue to offer the Funeral Module to existing Lay Ministers.

“However, it will now also be added to our ‘It’s Your Calling’ exploration days. Any Pastoral Assistants or Evangelists who might also have a calling to funeral and bereavement ministry should in the first instance talk about this with their incumbents and then contact he formation and ministry team to discuss this further.”

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