More resonances with Rupert Callender’s post in the latest Chester diocesan newsletter. In it, Bishop Peter Forster talks about funerals:
I have been thinking recently about funerals – not my own, particularly, although having just obtained my bus pass (and other welcome perks) in idle moments that has crossed my thoughts.
My mind has been concentrated by another experience, which is becoming more common: to go to a funeral, only to find that the cremation or burial has taken place earlier in the day, and the funeral has become a celebration of the deceased’s life.
Why does this jar with me so much?
He goes on to give his reasons, which, because they are consistent with Christian theology, would seem to me to be blameless
Firstly, it easily gives the impression that our bodies don’t matter much, that the essential ‘me’ is a disembodied soul or spirit … We are not spiritual chips off some cosmic block longing to return home: we are sacred individuals, made in God’s image, body, soul and spirit.
Secondly, these new funeral practices can seem to put death to one side, to ignore or even deny its reality. Some poems read at funerals give the same impression: ‘I have only slipped into the next room’, etc. Some music chosen at funerals likewise seems out of place, missing the proper solemnity which should mark the death of a child of God.
For Christians, death is an intrinsic part of life itself. We are baptised into the death of Christ, that we might live his risen life … so we should not evade the central place our death has in our journey to God … When we organise a funeral we set out liturgically to accompany the deceased on his or her journey to God. That’s why funerals are so important, and why the person, in the form of their body, should be part of the ritual itself. Only then will a funeral also become a witness to the resurrection.
Over at the Times a Christian journalist who is also an idiot has this to say in response:
The bishop can’t seriously be saying that a funeral without a body in the middle of it isn’t valid … What business is it of his as to how family and friends deal with their grief?
She concludes: The loss of a loved one is hard enough to bear without the Church chuntering about how you say your farewells.
Amazing. Perhaps the C of E has only itself to blame for this cake-and-eat-it sort of member. I don’t subscribe to the Bishop’s theology, but I am always ready to deplore any trend which seeks to make death bearable by trivialising it and turning it into a bit of a laugh.