Imam Ahmed Megharbi and Rev Isaac Poobalan in St John’s Episcopal Church, Aberdeen
Q: What’s Big Money to do? The industry big beasts, Dignity and Co-op, can’t make scale pay except by hiking prices (this may be incompetence). And funeral plans are beginning to look… well, decidedly subprime.
A: Burn, baby, burn!
Yes, buying and building crematoria is the Next Big Thing in Funeralworld. Already we’re in the midst of our first nasty public spat. Mercia Crematorium Developments is in a ruckus over plans to build a crematorium at Hackington, Kent. Nearby Barham crematorium, owned by Westerleigh, is allegedly priming protestors, including five undertakers and the Dean of Reculver, to abort the development. You can read about it here. There’s going to be more of this sort of thing according to senior analysts here at the GFG, just you watch.
Memo to Big Money: Building crematoria is next best thing to feeding money into a blast furnace. Why? Because the way we do things now is bonkers, and when something’s bonkers someone’s bound to notice eventually, and when they do notice your bottom will fall out and we’ll all look back on the way we did things as the Age of Stupid.
A funeral venue with an incinerator attached is nuts. More of the same won’t help us out of our present problem, which is:
We’ve got too many incinerators and not enough venues.
Our incinerators don’t work hard enough because they only function for an average of 6 or so hours a day, 250 days out of 365. The way to fix this is to house incinerators in nice wee buildings in around an acre or so of nicely landscaped grounds serving a number of funeral venues and operating round the clock all the days of the week. This would bring down the cost of cremation hugely. Add staffing costs to the raw cost of cremating someone — presently less than twenty quid for gas, leccy and reagent — plus the capital cost of the equipment, and you’re probably looking at something under £100.
Okay, but what about the venue shortage, you cry.
We’ve got more of them than we think. All manner of public and private spaces in the hearts of our commmunities are under-occupied from village halls and cricket pavilions to churches.
Yes, churches. Lovely things. We’ve got thousands of them, all echoingly underoccupied. Except that:
In Aberdeen, every Friday, Imam Ahmed Megharbi leads Muslim worshippers in their lunchtime prayers inside St John’s Episcopal Church in the city centre. His mosque had become too small for all his worshippers, so the incumbent, the Rev Isaac Poobalan, invited them in. Imam Megharbi and his flock seem wholly at ease with the Christian inconography all round them. You can read the full story here(£)
Let’s applaud the C of E for its ecumenical spirit and, at the same time, let us recall the words of CS Lewis: “A church is the only organization that exists primarily for the benefit of non-members.”
So it is that, down in Slough, an interesting thing has happened to the local C of E school. 75 per cent of its pupils are now Muslim, so it is conducting its assemblies without Christian hymns and has allocated separate prayer rooms to boys and girls. The headteacher, Paul McAteer, says: “The Church of England describes itself as a faith for all faiths … Our assemblies consider humanitarian and spiritual issues that concern everyone. We don’t have it as part of our philosophy to do assemblies based on the Bible.”
Might our churches therefore be prepared to extend a welcome to all those who presently huddle outside the crem waiting for their 20 mins-worth?
Well, pretty much every funeral in Britain considers ‘humanitarian and spiritual issues’. Pretty much every funeral expresses spirituality of some kind. An awful lot have a Lord’s Prayer and The Lord’s My Shepherd. If the elastic of the C of E stretches to embrace worshippers of another creed, it seems already to have stretched quite far enough to embrace the troubled Vale and his ilk. Might it be agreeable to inviting them all to come on in and take all the time they like — and, if you want, the vicar can pop in at the end and dispense some juju?
I think it’s time we asked them.