FUNERAL AND MEMORIAL SERVICES
Chevening Church is a beautiful setting for a funeral or memorial service.
Every single person who lives in the parish of Chevening, which covers most of Chipstead, is entitled to a funeral service at St Botolph’s. As the Church of England is ‘established’ this entitlement to a funeral lies in the law of the land. It’s not up to me as Rector; it’s your right. Lots of people in my experience seem to have forgotten this or think that they need to be very religious to have a church service. This simply isn’t true. Over my time here as Rector we have played Eric Clapton, ELO, Dambusters, Frank Sinatra and Shirley Bassey at funeral services, just to name a few.
A church funeral is surprisingly good value. A standard service costs £293, which if you bear in mind the £3000+ undertakers are going to charge, seems a small proportion. For that you will be visited by the clergy who will help you plan a service to suit your particular needs and wishes. Not to boast, but as we have taken scores of funerals, we are quite good at it and will look after you well.
Perhaps the biggest plus of a church funeral is being able to thank God for someone’s life and give them a good send off from the place where they lived. Our church is also Grade 1 listed and quite beautiful. In contrast the crematorium is 16 miles away and looks a bit ‘civic’.
If you live in the parish you are also entitled to be buried in the burial ground*, which the parish council looks after, just beside the church. But if your wishes are for cremation why not consider a service in church with the committal at the church lychgate? The committal is the conclusion of the service where we commend your body to be cremated (‘earth to earth, dust to dust ashes to ashes’ etc). The words can be said at the crematorium but we have a tradition of saying them at the lychgate. This means the service finishes at Chevening and relieves your family of the need to troop down to Tunbridge Wells and back before the wake. Of course some families prefer a service in the crematorium and we are very happy to help with those as well.
It can be a great help to your family if they have some knowledge of your wishes before you go. This doesn’t have to be complicated. In case I haven’t written mine down anywhere else when my time comes I’d like a service in church, a burial, and the hymn ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’. I’d like white lilies on my coffin, which I’d like to be mid oak to match the church, with brass handles. I don’t want a long eulogy but I do want someone to commend the hope of eternal life with Jesus. Please get someone who really believes in Jesus and isn’t just going through the motions. I’d quite like the tolling bell as I’m carried over the burial ground, it adds a bit of drama!
I hope this isn’t too macabre; it’s just as I’ve sat there in my stall, in front of perhaps a hundred bodies, slowly I have come to realise this where we are all headed. Sometimes people ask me to come over in advance to discuss their wishes and also their hopes and fears about life after death. This is a great privilege and can bring great peace.
Rev Chris Smith, former Rector of Chevening
*From Chevening Church burials take place in the burial ground opposite the churchyard. Ashes may also be interred in the burial ground.
Please contact The Parish Clerk, if you have any questions regarding the burial ground on 07981 759255.