In February, six people were licenced as Funeral Ministers as part of a new initiative at the Diocese of Gloucester.
Jeremy Clutterbuck, a Funeral Director from Cam, shares why he decided to get involved in funerals from a different perspective and how it has enabled him to live out his faith.
In 2001, Jeremy left his senior role in the MOD to take over the family funeral business from his father, which goes back six generations to the 1800s.
“My job as part of a large team of scientific advisors for the MOD was to advise the Government, but the recommendations were often set aside for other strategies, which had become very demoralising. It was hard working as a Christian in the MOD, investing in war and defence, but there were lots of people like me with a faith background who wrestled with the same issue. While I loved the science, I was glad to put that behind me when I made the move to funeral directing. I’m now able to help people on a one-to-one basis which feels more rewarding.”
Jeremy’s business, L.W. Clutterbuck Ltd, is underpinned by the values of his faith, welcoming people of all faiths and none, and his role as a Christian Funeral Minister is offered where people would like to have it.
“I would like people without faith to come to a business that is run by people of faith, so that hopefully they will experience something of that compassion and hope through the service that we provide. In the Chapel of Rest, people who have come to see their loved one have asked me “What do you believe?” and there’s been those moments where I can share my faith in a conversational way.”
Working closely with the local community in various roles, which includes running the local Post Office, Jeremy believed that funeral directing was his calling, but felt there was more. As a regular member of his local church, St Bartholomew’s in Lower Cam, he began to explore what that might be.
“For several years I’ve had a niggle about being called for something and every time we’d have a Vocation Sunday at church, it would keep coming up. I contacted Pauline Godfrey (Head of Discipleship and Vocation at the Diocese of Gloucester) who talked me through the options, which included the new Funeral Project. So, I met with Nick Partridge, the Funeral Project Manager, who explained everything to me and I was really excited by what I heard. I signed up for the course but Nick also asked for my help in looking at one of the training modules which was on working with Funeral Directors! Of course, I was delighted to give that session and completed the full course to become a Funeral Minster myself.
Jeremy has found funeral ministry a hugely rewarding experience.
“Being a Funeral Minister is totally different to being a Funeral Director. I have loved it. Funeral directing is very much about the logistics, whereas the minister role is all about the family and those that come to the service, leading them through something sad and giving them some sense of hope in the Christian message.
“I led a funeral for a gentleman who didn’t have any family. In the weeks leading up to his death, the staff at his care home had arranged for someone to go in and speak to him and write down his life story. I discovered that he was from the countryside and used to love making bows and arrows and had various hobbies, so I collected a whole load of objects that represented his life and the staff from the nursing home brought each one up during the funeral and placed them on his coffin. It was really touching; I’ve loved being able to do that kind of thing for people.
“Doing the Funeral Project and having that experience of being the minister has really helped deepen my faith. Interestingly, working around death has helped my faith. I’m constantly reminded of my own mortality, so I spend a lot of time thinking about what happens when we die. I have experienced all kinds of funerals for different faiths and secular, but I see a consistent reinforcement in the Christian message of hope. I think about death from another perspective, and I even pray differently as I see it from a different angle now.
“While it’s always an honour to direct a funeral, it is ultimately my livelihood, a commercial business. Leading a service is much more personal and special. To be the person to say those words and bring people to that moment where you are commending a soul to God, it is really a great privilege. It’s been really impactful for me.”
Find out more about the Funeral Project here: Diocese of Gloucester Funerals – Diocese of Gloucester (anglican.org)