Funeral 3: some deeper thinking.

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….I don’t think I’m a heretic, but it is one of those labels shouted when understanding and listening has broken down ( see also the use of the ‘pejorative adjective’ in the current General Election campaign)

My question as a Christian is; how best do you honour people, really honour people? Each vicar/priest/pastor/minister has to make their choice. I’m at the stage of I’m not here to compel (this is where I perhaps divert from many ) or get through a set order as ‘that is what is written’, or even to convert when I lead a funeral (although sometimes that might be appropriate if that is what is requested). To try and do anything apart from honour the person who has died, support those who are grieving and be true to yourself (people can see through an act)is all that can be expected from a celebrant.

Sometimes I have even jettisoned the language of ‘religion’ if that was what is appropriate: I’m here by invitation and ‘invitation’ precludes ‘trespass’. Besides, I reckon that if God is God that is ok and God is bigger than any form of words. Many times the songs that people want in a ‘humanist funeral’ often refer to ‘angels’ or ‘heaven’ or ‘seeing you later’ anyway. Also, in general when people say ‘humanist’ they talk about religion more when you discuss what they want.

As a minister (and now a chaplain roaming all over a county) I’ve always been a person who is part of a community , often acting as a representative person in contexts that are not necessarily ‘religious’ (I loathe that word!) . These situations awoke me to a reality beyond church and often they have been converting and challenging. As a chaplain, I’m in those situations all of the time- I have no safe space and cannot exist in a silo. Occasionally doing non faith funerals challenges a lot of my preconceptions, changes my language and enables me to see God where I would have thought him absent.

Now nearly 5 years away from church ministry, I sometimes wonder just how much ministers are missing out by staying away from funerals as they are ‘too busy’ or only doing Christian ones. Society and the funeral business are moving rapidly away from using church ministers: it seems because there are fewer of them, sometimes it is hard to get them to return calls and a minority seem unbending (this is the view of funeral Directors I have spoken to: not mine). Most funeral directors rarely bother; sticking to celebrants whose quality they can guarantee. If I was in church ministry, would I lead non faith ceremonies? Yes:there is a world there where we are not; lamenting over that and not trying to engage seems a pity.

Besides; I only believe that you grow when you encounter boundary situations…

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