I posted on something similar to this a few weeks ago…
It happened again.
I was contacted by an undertaker. A family for whom I had done a funeral for only weeks ago had suddenly and tragically lost another member. They wanted me.
They were very clear- ‘You know where we came from before, and now this- we find ‘God’ very difficult, so we want non religious’.
Of course, I could have said ‘no’, but I know I am in a minority. I have no issue with leading a non religious ‘service’:-
-It is not a ‘service’, it is a ‘memorial’ (And that is important- it is not splitting hairs: it cannot be a ‘service’ if God is not invoked imho).
-Big word ‘ontological’ (being and nature)- my being and nature as an ordained minister does not alter. Indeed: paradoxically, the family often refer to me as ‘vicar’ or even ‘our vicar’. I still dress as I would for a ‘religious’ funeral. Ditto my being and nature as a representative person is not altered were I to speak at a Rotary Club as a minister, about, say, rock music.
-From comments afterwards, many there believe that a ‘vicar’ being there, makes it somehow ‘special’. Some believe that a service has happened. I guess it has- I believe God is there and I still pray for the families. Many more so- I can see the hurt.
-If all I do is do a memorial, show respect and value the person/family and some people leave it thinking ‘We saw a Rev and he was nice’, they begin to think ‘religion’ is not bad after all. Indeed, I have found many people’s desire initially for ‘non religious’ stems from the perceived or actual experience of religious figures being controlling or dominating. Once they realise that that may not necessarily be the case, many ask for some Christian content. Another ‘no’ just confirms their prejudices.
As the Black Eyed Peas intoned ‘Where is the love?’, of saying ‘no’ or being over fussy faced with pain and needing someone?
I guess I am lucky- I work with good, independent firms who care, who neither ‘use’ families or ‘use’ ministers. I can honestly say, that I have learned much about chaplaincy etc from my experiences of working with them and being ‘open’ where previously my theology was more ‘closed’