Where only the best will do

Charles Cowling

 

A recent comment in the Guardian reminds us of the setbacks to the cause of better funerals that can be wrought by indifferent celebrants. Well, that’s my interpretation of this:

I was unfortunate enough to attend a “humanist funeral” a couple of years ago. It struck me as utterly fatuous and silly, without the appropriate respect for life or any real solace to those who were grieving, and in no way provided any alternative to the religious rituals which enable many people to make sense of their lives. Possibly this is because atheist philosophies are relatively new, and need to develop, but I have my doubts.

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gloria mundiJonathanBryanCharles Cowlingandrew plume Recent comment authors

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gloria mundi
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Jonathan’s final sentence is key; it would correct so much of what is currently chancy or ineffective about current practice. But it does take quite ba long time, I’ve found.

Jonathan
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Jonathan

I’m beginning to wonder whether what makes a genuinely good funeral ceremony has anything to do with anyone’s beliefs. Others may experience it as good or not depending on how attached they are to hearing their own beliefs expressed; if there has to be, for them, an ‘alternative to religious rituals’ then that limits their chances, as does an inability to tolerate religion. I think you’ve got it, Bryan, when you seem to imply that a good or bad funeral ceremony depends on who the celebrant is, how attuned he or she is to others’ needs; but even that doesn’t… Read more »

gloria mundi
Guest

Good for you, Bryan – the use of belief/unbelief as a defining concept for funerals and celebrants doesn’t really work. We all know that funerals are rarely “atheist” and Christian funerals have attenders with a huge range of beliefs/not beliefs. And the beliefs of the celebrant are, I’ve come to feel, entirely irrelevant. Also, good for you for guiding families. Many FDs simply seem to phone whoever is on their list as flavour of the month/cheapest or some other irrelevant category.

Bryan
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It doesn’t really matter whether the celebrant is religious, humanist or civil. There are some who just shouldn’t be doing the job.

One of my responsibilities as funeral director is to try and guide families away from those who don’t do a good job and towards those that do – whatever their beliefs (or mine).

Gloria Mundi
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Gloria Mundi

Well “I have my doubts” too, because few of the ceremonies I’ve helped with have been purely atheist, and actually atheism has a much older pedigree than is sometimes realised. So it was with to do with a poor piece of work from a celebrant, or it’s as Jonathan says.

Jonathan
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Jonathan

While I know about the setbacks to the cause that can be wrought by indifferent celebrants, this comment could just as well (as it stands) say more about the commentor than it says about the celebrant.

Well, that’s my interpretaiton, Charles, since comments about funerals I’ve conducted range from ‘the best funeral I’ve ever been to, better than I could have thought possible’ to ‘well, that was a bit of nothing, wasn’t it!’

andrew plume
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andrew plume

well Charles, I can add this:

five months ago, I attended the most wonderful Humanist service at St Marylebone Crem, it was truly wonderful (if one could ever say that about such an event), the Sottish male who ‘took the service’ had a terrific touch and all involved were as pleased as was feasibly possible

regards

andrew