A CFS is a community-owned enterprise: a formally constituted not-for profit co-operative funeral service which, in a spirit of common purpose, deploys volunteers and professionals as its members see fit in support of three objectives: commercial, social and environmental.
It is run democratically by and for its members. All members are equal.
A CFS might derive its support from, and serve the needs of, a group within a community which adheres to a particular philosophy, faith or set of values. Alternatively, it might seek to be multicultural, inclusive of all in the community, serving everyone according to their needs and values.
A CFS reclaims the care of the dead and the support of the bereaved from the for-profit sector, but in doing so it does not take inspiration from the past. A CFS is a progressive agent of social change in response to, in particular, the growing challenges posed by longevity; the growing needs of the bereaved; and evolving trends in the expression of grief and the commemoration of the dead.
The community funerals movement does not denigrate the values and skills of the best funeral directors. On the contrary, it seeks to accommodate them.
It is often said that communities have disintegrated beyond repair, but it is notable that they regroup around enterprises which can make a real contribution to wellbeing and serve self-interest. Community shops and pubs are evidence of this, as are credit unions – and, in fact, a great many other initiatives. Where there is need or opportunity, communities display an impressive capacity for forming effective congregations whose activity promotes cohesion and engagement.
- A CFS improves the quality of the lives of its members and also the life of its community.
- A CFS develops the skills and competences of its members.
- A CFS promotes healthy, robust and informed attitudes to mortality by responding to the ‘death of one of us’ as ‘something that touches all of us’. In doing so it rejects as emotionally unhealthy the outsourcing of the care of the dead and the arrangement of their funerals to specialist undertakers.
- A CFS asserts the normality of death and assumes ‘a neighbourly duty of care for our own’.
- A CFS promotes compassionate community engagement and a neighbourly duty of care by offering the bereaved practical and emotional support given freely by volunteers. A CFS supports the bereaved more comprehensively than can a conventional funeral director. Whatever the motivation of those drawn to support a CFS, an element of self-interest based in reciprocity is vital. Those who support their CFS will one day be supported by it.
- As families become ever more geographically dispersed, often needing time to regroup when a death happens, there is a growing need for the immediate support that only a CFS can offer the bereaved.
- A CFS is socially and spiritually inclusive. In its executive council, it represents all socio-economic groups; all faith groups and those who have no faith; all ethnicities; and all sexes.
- A CFS has an educational role. It actively promotes, at all levels, through lectures, debates and other events, healthier, better informed attitudes to, and positive engagement with, death, dying and bereavement, seeking to establish end-of-life issues and awareness of mortality as normal ingredients of everyday discourse. A CFS believes that, where end of life matters are concerned, ignorance is fear, and that a good death is one where we die prepared, and with our affairs in order. A CFS therefore encourages community members to plan comprehensively for the end of life and shows them how to do it.
- Just as those who work for a CFS do not do so exclusively, a CFS does not treat the death of someone as a discrete event. A CFS works collaboratively with those who care for the elderly and the dying, and with those who support the bereaved.
- A CFS competes with the for-profit, commercial sector on a not-for-profit basis by offering unbiased advice and providing services that are competitive on cost, but which provide better value
- Whatever model any particular CFS adopts, its commercial raison d’être is to enable its members and (if applicable) non-members to pay for the funerals they want, both in advance and at need, at rates lower than those available from a commercial operator.
- A CFS enables its members to make financial provision for their own funerals with a credit union or similar mutual enterprise.
- A CFS acknowledges that its fitness to deliver its social and environmental objectives derives from its ability to deliver economic benefits to it members. Unless it can provide a service offering better value for money than the for-profit sector it has no business in the marketplace.
- A CFS sources merchandise and services as far as possible from within its community, and prioritises environmental sustainability in all areas of its operation.
Next: read about the 4 Models of a CFS