St John’s Churchyard: message for the wardens

“Churchyards are different in their nature from municipal cemeteries” – a quote from the Chancellor’s General Directions Concerning Churches and Churchyards, issued by the Diocese of Chichester (January 2016).

Churchyard Regulations have, of necessity, changed with the times and in taking stock, with the Rural Dean, of the practicalities of running St. John’s, we have realised that the Churchyard Regulations displayed in the church porch are woefully out of date (2003!)

In 2013 Simon wrote, in Copthorne Magazine:
“Our churchyard is a place of peace and comfort; a place of rest and hopefully will remain so for generations to come. It is somewhere to come and ‘remember’, somewhere that brings solace. It is a place of tranquillity where, in one’s own time, we can find the reassurance that brings strength for daily living found in the hope of our Lord’s resurrection. Our ‘charge’ is to pass this heritage of rest and comfort to future generations. This is why there are rules for monuments and the like so as to preserve the special character of the churchyard for the benefit of all, now and into the future. The full regulations can be found in the Chancellor’s General Directions for Churches and Churchyards on the diocesan website: www.chichester.anglican.org. Alternatively, if you have any questions, then please contact the Parish office (01342 712063).

There are practical considerations concerning monuments. Certain stone engraves better than others and consideration is always given to a stone’s suitability. Inscriptions are encouraged to inform future generations of the deceased and a few telling words describing their life are always welcomed. (For those whose ashes are interred in the Labyrinth we have a Labyrinth Roll in the church where similar information can be recorded.)

We have to give cognisance to health and safety, and ease of maintenance. This is why for example vases must be unbreakable and sunk into the ground. Glass jars are especially vulnerable to flying stones when cutting the grass, which is why I remove them! Likewise, mementos are not allowed because they change the character of the area and can make it difficult for others whose loved ones are buried nearby; and they also make maintenance much more difficult.

Perhaps though the most difficult issue pertains to flowers. Fresh cut flowers are always welcome and, in burial plots, we encourage the planting of spring bulbs for example. (Please remember though that the plot remains the property of the church.) Artificial flowers are not permitted apart from Remembrance Poppies or Christmas wreaths. I know this is difficult and I try and turn a blind eye to seasonal silk flowers that are not faded but I do generally clear away any such flowers, as well as withered flowers and mementos, at the beginning of each month to preserve the freshness of the churchyard.

Our churchyard is not only a haven for us humans as we enjoy its surroundings. It is also a haven for wild life and wild flowers. Our churchyard offers a green area for birds, butterflies, flowers and bees etc. For Spring and Summer months some grass in less used parts of the churchyard may be left un-mown so that the area can support a wide variety of wild life and flowers.

Thank you for your support and understanding.”

Extracts of the updated Regulations are displayed in the church porch and we respectfully ask that families read them and remove items that do not comply from graves, the labyrinth and the Garden of Remembrance.

Whilst a churchyard is open for burials maintenance is the responsibility of the church. We are very grateful to the churchyard working party that meets on the first Saturday of each month from 9.15am onwards to help with the maintenance. Do join us if you can (there are always excellent refreshments!). We spent about £2,000 last year in maintaining the churchyard, and we are especially grateful to Worth Parish Council for their annual grant of £500 and to others who have made donations towards the costs. If you would like to contribute towards the maintenance of the churchyard please contact the Parish Office.

Monica and Sue