Journey from teen volunteer at Childline to funeral celebrant for Birchington’s Jen Watson

Funeral Celebrant Jen Watson

A passion for listening to people and understanding the impact of grief “in all its forms” are at the core of Birchington resident Jen Watson’s role as a funeral celebrant.

The mum of two boys, aged 10 and 12, moved to the village from North Wales in August when husband Glyn became the new Minister for Birchington Baptist Church.

Jen, 35, has a pastoral and counselling background of work with children, young people and families and took her first role as a volunteer with Childline when she was just 16.

She said: “That passion of being present and actively listening to people was something that grew in me from a teenager and led to lots of different jobs.”

Watching a podcast in 2020 which charted the journey of one woman from a pastor to a funeral celebrant prompted Jen to change her own path.

After 12 months of online training and a residential Jen earned her diploma for civil ceremonies and completed special training for Baby and Child Funeral Services.

She said: “When a bereavement occurs a funeral director will ask the family who they would like to lead their loved one’s service, People with a religious connection will use a vicar, minister or religious leader but when they do not want any of those a celebrant is offered.

“When I meet a family I listen intently and pick up all sorts of things about the person who has died, whether they are an adult, child or baby. I work with the family to put together a bespoke service, there is no template.”

The service will be highly personal, from the first song to items on display.

Jen said: “I support the families in the community who do not want the support of the church.

“I reach out to the people that (husband Rev Watson) cannot reach out to.”

Jen, who is a member of the Institute of Civil Funerals, says she now must work to build a place in the community such as the one she had nurtured in North Wales.

The transition to Birchington has been a pleasant one, Jen says. She added: “Birchington has a lovely beating heart as a community. There is a real sense of wanting to keep its identity. We come from a much bigger location so did not have that sense of ownership, so it is a little different.”

Find out more about Jen and JW Celebrancy at