The funeral was in full swing and the celebrant was midway through that thing about life being a river that gets wider and wider when his phone went off in his trousers pocket. He furtively squeezed it into silence as he stumbled on. It may have been something by Kahlil Gibran. The phone shrilled out once more. Again, he stilled it. When it went off for the third time he pulled it from his pocket and addressed the caller. “I can’t speak to you now, I’m in a funeral.”
Reader, it really happened.
Yes, there’s a full spectrum of secular celebrants out there. Some are the best it gets, some are sub-prime — and an awful lot are blameless.
What’s more, there’s a heck of a lot of them. They’re all competing for work and it’s getting a bit beastly what with all the wheedling and undercutting and general unseemly jostling.
There used to be just four tribes of celebrants, the Humanists, the Civils, the green fusers and the Association of Independent Celebrants. Now there’s also the Fellowship of Independent Celebrants, the County Celebrants Network, the Scottish Independent Celebrant Association and the Fellowship of Professional Celebrants. I’ve probably missed one. They’re all training new recruits of whom, in this bad economy, there is no shortage.
There’s market saturation in some areas.
Does it matter? I used to think that Darwinian forces would kill off the less good while the excellent would drive up demand for secular funerals by the example of their work. There are still a lot more religious funerals than the churchgoing figures would seem to explain, so there is theoretically a rich seam to be worked.
It doesn’t necessarily seem to be happening, the Darwinian thing. There may well be people who have been so underwhelmed by indifferent secular funerals they’ve been to that they’re turning back to the Church as the lesser of two evils. And let’s not be disparaging about ministers. There may be some below par ones out there, but there are also masses of excellent ones.
Some funeral directors will only let the very best celebrants anywhere near their families. Others will take the first one who’s free on Thursday at 2.30.
Perhaps the message to the very best is that you don’t need to be that good, spend all that time, invest all that emotional energy. Perhaps there is very little perceived difference between good enough and good as it gets. We note that no funeral director yet has sought to take the very best celebrant in his/her area out of the market by offering them a salary based on, say, three funerals a week. Perhaps a really good celebrant doesn’t make them look that good.
No one wants to feel like a scavenger fighting for scraps. So the very best celebrants, they’re just going to walk away, aren’t they? And that’s either a shame — or it doesn’t really matter all that much.
Do tell me I’m wrong.