Church gives its blessing to volunteer funeral directors

church gives its blessing to volunteer funeral directors

Andreas barber wants to communicate the positive sides of the catholic church. From now on he has a new field of activity for this. Barber is one of 15 volunteer funeral directors in the wurzburg diocese.

A funeral without a priest? Long time unimaginable. But burial is not a sacrament. Unlike a baptism or a wedding, lay people are also allowed to officiate at a funeral. However, the fact that the catholic church is training these lay people is new. At least in the diozese of wurzburg.

In the north and west of germany, honorary funeral directors have already been in service for several years. In the diocese of wurzburg, the first corresponding course started in the spring of 2017. The interest was rough. Seven women and eight men took part in the seven saturday courses offered between april and september. Another 40 are on the waiting list. All people who want to lead funerals, who are already volunteering.

Andreas barber is the head of the BRK dettelbach emergency unit. He is active in emergency chaplaincy and is a liturgist. In 1989 he started an apprenticeship with a mortician, since 2001 he has been a cemetery attendant for the city of kitzingen. His tasks include the preparation of graves and the care of cemeteries. Together with his colleagues barber carries the deceased to the grave. This year alone, there have been about 180 in the six cemeteries that belong to his area of responsibility. Hardly anyone has experienced so many funerals up close as the 48-year-old. Death has been familiar to him for a long time. He is not afraid of this. And even less before his new task.

Andreas barber has a clear idea of what a dignified funeral should look like. The mourning talk with the relatives is important to him. He is happy to accept their wishes – even if there are limits. Barber tells of relatives who requested the AC/DC classic "highway to hell" at a funeral. Of course, the priest in charge had refused to do so. This has nothing to do with a christian funeral, after all.

"Funerals are becoming more and more individualized," barber has learned over time. And: very few members deal with the subject in good time, many still repress death even when the coffin is lowered into the ground. For him, it’s clear that it’s easier to say goodbye if you have a church background. "The christian faith gives support."But the number of christians is decreasing. More and more often, the accompaniment of clergy is no longer desired even at funerals. Many turn to morticians and funeral orators.

And when a spiritual request is made, some pastors are pressed for time. The shortage of skilled workers does not stop at the churches either. Kitzingen’s pastor gerhard spockl knows this only too well. "The rooms we have to look after are getting rougher, the staff fewer," he says. The fact that the church is trying out new ways in the face of this development is only to be welcomed. Even if he was irritated at first by the idea of honorary funeral directors. For spockl, it is crucial that pastoral care addresses the "human hot spots". In addition to the marriages, the funerals are also part of his work. The bare funeral still goes on well. So far this year, there have been about 150 to 200 deceased in the parish community of kitzingen (biebelried, buchbrunn, hoheim, kitzingen st. Johannes and st. Vinzenz, mainstockheim/albertshofen, repperndorf and sulzfeld) are given to him. Spockl’s main concern is the aftercare, the care of the bereaved. This is essential for him – and is too often neglected due to time constraints. For the pastor of kitzingen, this is a point at which the honorary funeral directors could be used.

Andreas barber sees it the same way. He wants to be there for the bereaved, from the funeral talk to the burial and the debriefing. Its goal: to make the members feel that everything has gone well from the ecclesiastical point of view. "Of course it would be optimal if i could also convey to them what christianity is all about, namely the belief in the resurrection."But he does not want to be a lecturer in any way. Rather empathetic and supportive. "Before all things i will honor the deceased."

Honorary funeral directors have been in place since the 4. November in all deaneries of the wurzburg diocese. They received a certificate from the diocese and were allowed to pursue this activity for an initial five years.

The parish remains the first point of contact for funerals. If the pastor is unable to attend due to time constraints, the honorary funeral director can step in on request.