In the UK, a mother was heartbroken after church volunteers removed and destroyed tributes in her baby’s grave.
Charlotte Day, 26, was left fuming after church volunteers at St. Peter’s Church in Bredhurst, Kent removed and destroyed precious tributes from her stillborn baby, Ruby, who died in 2014.
Charlotte says she is just one of many people who experienced heartache after “irreplaceable” tributes were removed from graves without a warning.
The unpleasant incident is the latest of dubious actions by the church that have upset a lot of families.
In 2016, the relatives of loved ones buried in the graveyard were told that they must remove the items because they were against the church rules.
“They have removed all items from my daughter’s grave, things that had been there since burial, and then destroyed them all, leaving me with no memories of when she first passed,” Charlotte said. “They did this back in 2017. They removed things from people’s graves and there was a big uproar about it. They calmed it down and didn’t take things off graves of children.”
“Then last year, they removed things again. But this time, they have literally taken up everything, moved it to the back in the graveyard and they have destroyed them,” Charlotte added. “There were nine things on Ruby’s grave that they have destroyed. Some of the things were irreplaceable.”
Among the treasured items that Charlotte said have been taken include a small keyring from Florida with Ruby’s name on it and a little hippo toy.
“A pair of blue china baby shoes were removed from another child’s grave,” she said. “They had been there for over 30 years.”
“They have also removed poppies from graves and a small American flag that is continuously removed and destroyed when replaced for an American veteran of World War Two,” she added. “His family is disgusted and outraged.”
Charlotte said that the grave of one of her family friends was also disturbed.
“He tragically died in an ice hockey accident and had his neat, presentable, respectful, and tidy flowers removed,” Charlotte said.
Two years after, the church escalated matters in an attempt to receive backing from a Church of England judge.
According to Charlotte, the church volunteers are now patrolling the graveyard every day, and have been doing so for many weeks.
She took pictures of some volunteers who she said are aged over 70 and were disregarding government social-distancing protocols by standing too close to each other and leaving their homes during the lockdown.
In a statement, the diocese of Rochester, which administers the church, said their decision to get rid of the items was difficult and deeply regrettable but was done to ensure the churchyard remains “peaceful and beautiful” and in a “Christian Context”.
“St. Peter’s churchyard is Church of England land which has been consecrated – made sacred – by a Bishop,” a diocese spokesman said. “This means that it has been placed under the care and protection of the Church, giving it a special status in law.”
“St. Peter’s is also a Grade II listed building, which means it is important that the churchyard must be a fitting context for the church building,” the spokesman added. “Like all Church of England churchyards across the country, there are a set of regulations which parishes like St Peter’s Bredhurst, are legally obliged to follow.”
“This is so that these shared sacred spaces can remain peaceful and beautiful places, reflecting the Christian context of the churchyard, now and for future generations,” the spokesman said. “This is always done respectfully and sensitively by members of St. Peter’s churchyard team, all of whom are volunteers and who take their responsibility very seriously.”
The spokesperson referred to a 2017 judgment by the Diocese judge apparently allowing the parish to remove and dispose of any items which violate the churchyard regulations.
The outraged mom said that the church agreed to leave babies’ graves untouched in 2016, but have since backtracked.
“We appreciate the regulations, however, a meeting was held in 2016 with the representative of the diocese of Rochester, the vicar, and various other people,” Charlotte said. “It was agreed that babies and children’s graves were left alone.”
Charlotte said the church didn’t keep up to their word until 2019 when items were again removed and destroyed.
The Diocese says it wants to move the situation forward positively, but Charlotte disagrees.
“They will not reach out for compromise,” Charlotte said. “This has caused prolonged grieving.”
The mourning mom said the church’s actions have severely affected her and her family, especially during the coronavirus period.
“My mom has been shielding for 14 weeks,” she added. “The first time she went out was up to see Ruby and was left in shock and dismay by the site of the bare grave.”