The Anglican Church is considering setting up a Samaritan-style 0800 hotline in which grieving families can contact their local vicar. They are also considering recycling graveyards so that everyone has a chance of burying their dead close to home.
Funerals are a lucrative business, worth some pounds 600m. The business of death has become increasingly commercial, with family-owned firms bought up by large organisations.
Parish priests fear that unless they become organised, they will be bypassed.
Tom Sutcliffe, a lay member of the Southwark Diocese, moved a motion at General Synod yesterday calling for greater co-operation between clergy and funeral directors. "How often can one get a priest at the end of a phone, rather than a taped message?" he asked. "And how many people who have just suffered a profound loss want to confide such an intense personal thing to a recording machine?"
Christopher Smith, the general secretary of London dioceses, suggested setting up "Church of England Funerals Ltd". He said "We have a captive market. I don't think we could go quite as far as guaranteeing the ultimate destination of the deceased, as the Advertising Standards Authority would obviously get us."Reuse content