Ann Thompson

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After a dramatic career change, Ann led 1,000 funerals in 7 years as a minister

January 2015 was my busiest month ever, with 37 funerals. Eleven of those were in a single week. That’s not a sustainable workload, of course, but it seemed important to try to meet the incredible level of need at that time. My funeral work has grown steadily from one service in 2007, to 268 in 2014. I passed the 1,000 mark sometime last year.

It takes time to earn the trust of funeral directors. They are a small community, and they all talk to each other. They know I’m reliable - that when they call me, I will always contact the family of the deceased person within hours. You have to work with funeral directors, to accept that they’re in charge of the event. You’re working for them as much as the family.

I always visit the family in their own home if at all possible. They feel more at ease there. It can take from 30 minutes to three hours to allow everything that needs to be said, and for the service to take shape. People really appreciate when the service is personal to them. I try to mention the name of their loved one repeatedly. So often I hear people remark how some ministers somehow seem to exclude the deceased person.

It’s a precious experience every time I stand by the coffin. I’ve had many unusual spiritual experiences, most often just before the committal - a sense of other beings around us, come to help the departed person on their way. I see them with my inner eye. It’s like standing at the meeting point between two realities.

Bankruptcy was the best thing that ever happened to me. Thanks in large part to my training as a minister, my life has completely transformed since my business went bust. It was a very low time, but I realise now it was the only way the Universe could get me to wake up and do what I was always meant to do.

Funeral work feeds me, in many senses. My fee is £195 (the same as humanist celebrants), so I’m earning a good income. Since ordination, I’ve also met a wonderful man, we've got together and recently bought the house in the country I dreamed about. I also do a handful of weddings each year — but funerals are what I absolutely love doing.

Ann’s website:

Ann Thompson (known as Ann Day at the time she trained) was ordained in 2007, and is based in Oxfordshire. Interviewed by Rob MacLachlan, May 2015.