Posted by Reverend Noel Lockyer-Stevens, One Spirit Interfaith Minister
Ed’s note: Noel is writing in response to Richard Rawlinson’s challenging post here.
The undertaking of a funeral service is for me one of the most privileged roles I undertake within my ministry in Dorset. I am sure that every minister, ordinand and priest feels the same or similar.
Why is privilege so important? When someone contacts me to take a funeral service it is because that it is recognised that I may be able to meet the needs of the newly bereaved family and the person who has left this mortal realm.
What are those needs? I believe they are as follows;
To be treated in a heartfelt way,
To be treated with respect for their religious or non religious belief
For the person who has passed to be honoured and their life to be celebrated despite any pain or anger from family or friends
To offer a landmark service that can be used for healing after honouring the deceased.
How can I help to meet those needs? I can arrive at the home of an unknown family as a stranger, discuss in intimate detail the life of someone I did not know and hopefully leave the lives of that family as a friend.
As a One Spirit Interfaith Minister I am not interested in tethering my belief system to the family I visit. For me anything that is respectful to the life of the departed and brings solace or comfort to the bereaved is okay in my book. The choice of music, song, prayer, poem or other reading is used as a tool for relief rather than invoking any form of guilt or shame or hurt.
I will not judge a life as right, wrong, bad or sinful, because these are points of view, not absolutes. I do not preach, I deliver soft and gentle messages of joy, forgiveness and hope. I do this in a way tailored to the beliefs of the family, whether they see an afterlife or not. Is there one? Can I say with proof positive that there is? Will I say with denial there is not?
This is not sitting on the fence, this is not a person afraid to talk about his beliefs of religion and spirituality. But neither will I tell any family what they can or cannot use to heal their pain, that there is only one brand of plaster to put on an open wound. Many brands of plaster aid healing and I am open to them all.