A Religious Funeral Service
A Religious Funeral Service
Much is written these days on alternatives and extremes. We read regularly about ‘extreme terrorism,’ sometimes in the name of “Allah!”
We read of the ‘extreme’ exploits of migrants attempting to escape their own political systems and drowning in their efforts – literally!
We also regularly witness, ‘alternative’ funeral services.
“Is the Christian funeral service a thing of the past?”
Younger generations don’t attend many ‘senior’ funeral services. Once in a while, a young death occurs due to an accident, suicide or illness. These are extremely well-attended and frequently, do not include a church minister to officiate. But, let’s not lose sight of the purpose of the funeral service.
We can ‘water-down’ anything we want these days. We live in such transient times that people do not considering longevity. True, our mortality is part of that longevity and rarely considered after all, it is such a long way off – right? Not for the young person whose funeral we just attended!
For there to be ‘alternative’ celebrants to conduct funeral services, there first had to be a ‘norm’ or, standard practice. By law, in England and Wales, the Church of England gives everybody the right to a funeral service be it burial or cremation. This is not the same as, disposing of a body.
Whether the death occurs in hospital or not, either the hospital authority or the local (council) authority IS responsible for the disposal if no other means is available BUT, the actual service IS the responsibility of the Church of England.
Irrespective of the fees involved, the whole purpose is a preparation for ‘life’ after mortal death – spiritual life in heaven (or hell!).
To many of us, this conundrum has been present in our lives since birth.
Growing up and attending school and ‘Sunday School’ in the 50’s and 60’s; attending compulsory ‘Church Parades’ in the army, I learnt that my Christening or, Baptism, was a temporary state of, ‘God’s Blessing’ until such time as my god-parents, those three people responsible for my religious education (in addition to other sources - not those commissioned to take care of me if my parents were killed in a car accident!), handed the choice and responsibility back to me to commit myself to the church by being ‘confirmed’ at the approximate age of 13 to 14 years.
Of course, I learnt a lot of this after the events (my God-parents obviously failed me!).
‘Confirmation’ to me was a number of sessions in my army life which enabled me to miss (skive) other unpleasantries of HM discipline! This did culminate in a ‘parent-attended’ ceremony AND, enabled me to go up to the altar (well almost up to), and partake of the ‘bread and wine’ symbolism – Holy Communion – a symbolic sharing of The last Supper with Jesus (God incarnate).
Little did anyone know, I had received this privilege twice.
When I was born, I contracted (yellow) jaundice. So serious was the condition, my mother (who had rescinded her Roman Catholicism to marry my Church of England father???), was visited by a Roman Catholic priest, in hospital where, I presumable received my ‘last rites’ – I was certainly blessed into ‘God’s waiting room’ but, survived the illness as you now know.
Having also been through total immersion baptism in my adult life following my father’s death, I have some ground-works in place regarding religion. Truthfully, I believe in God. Do I have answers to questions regarding the ‘next’ life? Only what I read and have been taught from The Bible.
In my time as a funeral director, speaking and becoming known personally to families, I have, on odd occasions, conducted funeral services. I have encountered ministers who would NOT conduct the funeral service of a gay person - more than once; – I have been asked to step-in mostly before the practices of engaging a funeral celebrant whose remit or brief is somewhat different in truth – essentially they do not cater for the afterlife.
Often, I have completed the process started by the clergy when interring (burying) ashes or, cremated remains, almost entirely with religious wording, prayers, The Lord’s Prayer and The Grace. I do this with conviction because of my own belief in God; I couldn’t do it without that belief.
The purpose of the Christian funeral service has been altered – slightly. Why? I imagine to ‘accommodate’ people? The church today has to compromise for numerous reasons; whether that is right or wrong is not for my judgement. Jesus did NOT compromise! He did not bear false witness, He did not succumb to temptation He did not deny His Father in heaven – He was not a sinner – ‘man’, unfortunately does not hold the same standards – fact.
The church has fallen foul of, ’The Celebration of Life.’ Not necessarily a bad thing but not quite the purpose of the Christian ceremony. Recalling the good and nice things the deceased accomplished in life is comforting: heaven or hell? Not so good!
We often hear that funerals are for the living and not the dead? To bring comfort and minimalise our grief is no bad thing, practically, but really? How does that prepare us for our ‘spiritual life’ after death?
In the absence of evidence or facts relating to our ‘good works’ here on Earth, the minister beseeches God for His mercy on the soul of the departed, asks for forgiveness for all the misdeeds committed, pleads the defence case here on Earth for the mortal that is departing our presence and though the minister has no knowledge necessarily, regarding the deceased, he/she, pleads for absolution before that all-important, meeting with the maker!
Commending them into God’s Loving Care as opposed to casting them into the Fire and Brimstone of the past, and with hardly a mention of the word sinner, the journey begins for the deceased and hopefully (once-upon-a-time with his coin for The Ferryman on his chest), the curtain comes round or we lower the deceased into the ground and bless the people in attendance too!
It is so strange to watch people’s comfort levels in the UK with their apparent dismissal of God in their lives, in stark contrast to so much of the rest of the world who ‘cross’ themselves at every opportunity they can and ask for God’s blessing even as they compete in sport – as do the other side!