Haycombe gets cross

Charles 6 Comments

The argy-bargy at Haycombe crematorium, Bath, has raged over an important issue, namely, whether or not a building created and maintained by all taxpayers should, or should not, be faith-neutralThe matter of the row was the cross etched into the window (above) which the council proposed to do away with in its recent renovation of the building. There was a one-sided outcry. “We are a Christian society and if we went abroad we would expect to honour the beliefs of that country,” said Councillor Colin Barrett (Con, Weston), speaking for many. The council held firm. The secularists switched off. 

The council has now given way, it seems. Once more we hand the microphone to the smug-sounding, not to say insufferable, Councillor Colin Barrett (Con, Weston), who, according to ThisIsBath, said: “I’m really pleased that the council has bowed to public pressure and backed down on its previous stance. It’s not exactly what we were looking for, which was a like-for-like replacement window, but it seems to be a compromise which most are happy with. The council has now told us that a cross will be in place in the window of the crematorium, which will only be removed on request for those who do not wish it to be part of their service.”

Is that really what’s happened? Is it the case that the default place for the cross will be in the window and not in the boot of Councillor Colin Barrett (Con, Weston)’s car?

There’s a principle at stake here. The council should have stood its ground and made it clear to all faith groups they they’re welcome to bring along whatever symbols they please, so long as they take them away with them when they leave. 




  1. Charles

    How deeply depressing that we should even need to discuss this issue. Cllr Barrett doesn’t seem to realise what and who a crem is for. “If we went abroad…” The man’s talking like an idiot. Does he really need to be told that the country is full of citizens born here who have faiths other than Christianity, or no faith, or a Perhapsist mixup, and that most Christians one meets accept this fact and don’t see it as an issue.?

    “Onwards Christian soldiers?” “Fight the good fight?”

    It’s time to get off the barricades and use your brains, Cllr Barrett.

  2. Charles
    Richard Rawlinson

    I’m with you that Bath council is considering the faith neutrality of the crematorium when installing a plain new window without the etched cross of the 1961 original.

    Some Christians and indeed non-Christians will inevitably see this as part of a methodical erasing of Britain’s heritage, saying the absence of complaints about the cross implies unnecessary interference by civil bureaucrats.

    I suspect a greater number, including perhaps the majority of Christians too, will see it as consideration of the diversity of users of the crematorium in a pluralist society, saying this is a just separation of public state and private faith.

    However, I see no harm in the crematorium providing a moveable cross for those customers who will be comforted by this symbol of the risen Lord. They offer hymn books and not everyone wants hymns; they offer coffee machines and not everyone drinks coffee.

    PS A steel girder, shaped like a cross, stood erect in the debris of the World Trade Centre after 9/11. It quickly became a shrine and there were calls to keep it in place as a memorial statue. The US atheist lobby objected, saying it wasn’t fair without symbols for those of other faiths and none. Is a faith symbol-devoid crematorium a symbol of atheism or a blank canvas for everyone?

  3. Charles

    I’d see it as blank canvas, and certainly there should be symbols ready to use as appropriate. Less frequently-encountered faith systems (e.g. shamanistic religion) might requite people to supply their own.

    For a funeral I took a year or so ago, I have to say the only appropriate symbol might have been a case of Nuits St George or Pommerol, of a good year, naturally….

  4. Charles
    Richard Rawlinson

    I hope it is intended as a blank canvas. The trouble with a situation like this is opposing sides read things in to the other’s motives. Those in favour of the cross see an agenda beyond neutrality.

    If there’s a moveable cross, I hope it’s a crucifix showing Christ’s selfless, salvic suffering which tends to stir more love than than the empty cross.

    Also, looking at the picture above, the crem is going to look like a bit of nondescript bunker without the etching.

  5. Charles

    Certainly agree with you about the ‘bunker’, Richard; although the appalling architecture of many crematoria is another issue I think!
    I would hope that both a crucifix and an empty cross are available as they symbolise different things and each is appropriate for different Christians. Exactly the same principle as different symbols being available for different faiths.
    I haven’t forgotten, by the way, that I promised you a reply to a previous post. I’m afraid you will have to bear withme, I am currently overseeing the marking of 5 GCSE papers and marking on another one and an AS, I am likely to be quite monsyllabic until August..but I will get there! 🙂

  6. Charles
    Richard Rawlinson

    Nice to hear from you, Jenny, especially as we share some agreement on this latest subject! Don’t worry about any outstanding comment on a previous blog, unless, of course, you want to comment. In which case, I’d enjoy reading your views.

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