New Start: meet the teacher turned celebrant

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Lisa Jane Newman from Wigan worked as an English teacher before a period of ill health gave her pause for thought. She explains why she chose to train as a funeral celebrant

I have always been the family’s ‘go-to’ person for eulogies and tributes – my experiences studying and teaching English and Drama mean that I am a confident public speaker.

During my teaching career I had attended several celebrant-led services and thought that was something I could do really well.

After undergoing treatment for breast cancer four years ago, I decided it was time to try something different.

During lockdown a friend of mine sent me a link about celebrancy with the message, “I think you’d be good at this”. I thought, yes – let’s do it! And it absolutely was the right thing to do.

I trained with Civil Ceremonies in September 2020 and began taking services later that year.

My work as a celebrant dovetails perfectly with my practise as a Buddhist. The transition from one life to the next in Buddhism is such an important aspect of our human life; working as a funeral celebrant gives me an opportunity to focus on this (discreetly – I never impose my views on the families I work with).

It’s about the families, the stories of their loved ones and honouring the life that has passed and will not be lived again.

Working as a funeral celebrant brings together my skills as a writer, a public speaker and, most importantly, my ability to connect with others in a way that is authentic and puts people at their ease at what is an upsetting and difficult time.

Teaching certainly requires time-management skills (both inside and outside the classroom), which is a skill that has naturally transferred over to my work as a celebrant.

Dealing with distressed, sometimes angry pupils in a calm and comforting way that enables them to feel safe and able to open up and confide is another skill I think has been very useful in my work as a celebrant.

Families frequently comment on my compassion and a sense of authenticity when I work with them, along with really feeling listened to.

As told to Sharon Barnard