Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Memorials

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The Chancellor refused to permit on a headstone a design of two intersecting triangles and a '12 spoked Dharmachakra', an Indian religious symbol, as he could not see in the design anything consistent with the three general principles of honouring the dead, comforting the living, and informing posterity, nor was there anything in the design to indicate the Christian hope of resurrection.

In 2007 the Parochial Church Council passed a resolution implementing a policy of restricting the interment of ashes in the closed churchyard to those of people on the electoral roll at their death and whose names has been on the roll continuously for at least the last ten years; also that no further memorial stones should be permitted. The petitioner wished to have his wife's cremated remains interred in a new plot and a memorial plaque placed over the plot. The petitioner's wife had been on the electoral roll for three years, but the family had worshipped at the church for many years and members of the family were buried in the churchyard, with the burials marked by memorials. The Chancellor stated that the PCC's policy could not override his discretion and granted a faculty for the interment and memorial.

The Faculty Petition related to a proposed memorial to be placed inside the church. The Chancellor decided that it was inappropriate for the proposed inscription to refer to the grandparents of the person in whose memory the memorial was to be erected. The Petitioner would not accept the omission of the reference to grandparents. The Chancellor accordingly declined to grant a Faculty.

The petitioners sought to place a tablet in the churchyard to commemorate two interments in the same plot in 2005 and 2007. Tablets had been allowed for a short period in the 1960s, but since then the Parochial Church Council had adhered to a policy of not allowing further tablets, in order to preserve the open grassed appearance of the churchyard. In 2011, a Faculty had been granted to authorise a memorial wall on which plaques could be placed to commemorate those whose cremated remains have been interred in the churchyard since 2010. The incumbent and Churchwardens objected to a further plaque being placed in the churchyard. Whilst of the view that the policy of the PCC was reasonable and should normally be adhered to, the Chancellor felt there were exceptional circumstances in this case, as the plot in question was the only cremation plot without a tablet in a row of plots where tablets had been placed in the 1960s. Accordingly, a Faculty was granted.

The Vicar General refused to grant a confirmatory faculty for a memorial erected in memory of the petitioner's late wife, who had been a singer/songwriter and author of children's books. The memorial was made of wood and in the shape of a treble clef sign. The reasons given for refusal were: the memorial was taller and much thicker than the maximum dimensions laid down in the churchyards regulations; the wood was already cracking and deteriorating; the regulations required a memorial to be of natural stone; the memorial was of an eccentric shape, which is prohibited by the regulations; the Vicar General considered the memorial inappropriate for the setting. The Vicar General ordered the memorial to be removed within 56 days, and indicated that he would not object to it being replaced with a memorial of natural stone bearing a suitably sized engraving of a treble clef sign.

The Petitioner requested a memorial designed as an open book, in memory of his brother, to match an existing memorial in memory of his mother. Faculty granted. Chancellor: "ever, having regard to the exceptional pastoral case made by the petitioner for having a memorial resembling that of the deceased's mother, I would be prepared to authorise one in this instance as an exception to the general rule on the basis that it did genuinely resemble that of the deceased's mother."

A Faculty was sought for a memorial in the form of a Celtic cross. Neither the design nor the proposed inscription "Free Spirit" were approved by the Diocesan Advisory Committee. The Chancellor was minded to approve a design slightly revised from the one considered by the DAC, but not the inscription, as the words "do not convey anything of Christian belief nor the hope in the resurrection as is appropriate in a consecrated burial ground." A Faculty was refused, but the Chancellor directed that the order be stayed for six weeks, to give time for an alternative inscription to be approved, subject to which "a Faculty would in all likelihood issue".