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  • Writer's pictureRuth Jewell

Institute Seminar and AGM Day.

The symbol for the Institute of Civil Funerals is a yellow rose. A vase of beautiful roses sat on the table at the front of the room throughout the day.

The title sounds very boring, but the day was anything but! Since joining the Institute, when I qualified, this was my first opportunity to attend one of their events, and boy am I glad that I did. Luckily for me the event was held in Bournville, about half an hour's drive from my home. Sadly, despite being the home of the famous Cadbury's factory, there was no free chocolate though! We did, however, have a goody bag, which included a packet of fruit pastilles, so still had something yummy to munch on.

We also had lovely biscuits, cake and lunch, but this now sounds like the day was only great because of the food, which really isn't the case at all (although that was a lovely bonus).

Following the welcome from our Chairperson the day was split into different seminars, and time just flew by. The morning was focused on Living Ceremonies, something I have been very keen to offer, and after lunch we discussed Committals or Fabulous Farewells.

Sarah Chapman ( hosted the sessions on Living Ceremonies. Sarah has vast experience in delivering these, and gave a very interesting introduction, with insight into her own experiences along with valuable advice.

We split into groups, and each table took responsibility for 'organising' one part of a Living Ceremony. My group was responsible for the music, and just as we do when we are supporting a client for a funeral, we gathered as much information as we could about the person we were celebrating. We were then able to pick some appropriate music, for key parts in the celebrations.

After a short break (and a wonderful chance to meet and chat with other celebrants) we were all given the same fictional character, and each group had to create a Living Ceremony for this person. It was frantic, as time was limited, but we pulled together well in our teams, and came up with some fantastic ideas. Naturally there was some overlap, as we were all focusing on the same person, James Bond no less, but each group had planned a well rounded and appropriate celebration.

The buzz at lunchtime was palpable. We all share the same goals ,and put our clients at the heart of everything we do. To now have the tools to be able to offer this option to those nearing the end of their life was uplifting, and prompted lots of positive discussion.

As Institute members we have all taken the same qualification, and therefore work in very similar ways, however the discussion around the part of the service where the family say farewell to the body was extremely interesting, and thought provoking. Ideas and questions flew rapidly across the room.

Whilst for some families this is a very sombre and important time, for others it is something they don't wish to dwell on, and struggle to cope with. We all agreed that no two Farewells/Committals can possibly be the same. The wording needs to be appropriate, it should draw key words and feelings from the tribute, and should be meaningful. After all the wording for a 40 year old family loving man, who was taken far too soon by cancer, will be miles away from those for a 96 year old lady, who had no children or siblings and died peacefully in her sleep.

We were all in agreement that, as with everything else in the service, this is very much Client led, however we were all able to bounce around ideas and suggestions that will prove beneficial when supporting families in the future.

The afternoon closed with the AGM. This was an important part of the day, and was conducted efficiently and effectively. All of the Council members were happy to remain, and will be joined by an additional member we voted unanimously for. These members give up their time for free, and along with Barbara (the Administrator) do an amazing job supporting all the members, which is very much appreciated.

I arrived home buzzing with ideas, and keen to put into practice all the things we talked about and shared. I am slowly working my way through the copious notes that I made, and have already added Living Ceremonies as an option that I offer on my website. I always feel that Continuing Professional Development is very important, and Saturday absolutely proved how beneficial it can be.

P.S. When I was welcomed to the Institute Facebook Page (a closed group), the lady who welcomed me had my maiden name as her surname. It is an unusual name that you don't often come across and so I messaged her. On Saturday I took along a copy of my family tree to share with her, and her husband and I are related via shared Grandparents a few generations back. What a small World it is!


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