The Humanist Funeral
Why a non-religious service?
In an increasingly secular society people are beginning to feel it hypocritical to have a priest (or one of the modern priestesses) representing belief in an afterlife perform a funeral ceremony when the deceased, whilst living, rejected any such unsubstantiated, irrational, illogical notion.
Death usually comes unexpectedly. A family stricken by grief do not always know of, or inquire about, the alternatives a funeral director can offer. At such a time it is natural for the bereaved to leave almost everything regarding the ceremony to the appointed funeral director. Bureaucratic paperwork is sufficient for them to deal with! A funeral director will ask what religion the deceased had, and all too often naturally assume the family require a minister representing that religious belief to conduct the funeral ceremony.
Simply, in olden days before the advent of companies specialising in dealing with the dead (now called funeral directors) it was natural and normal for a family to wash the body of their deceased and prepare it for burial.
Wooden coffins were not a regular feature and bodies were buried in a plain, simple burial shroud or winding cloth (often Hessian sacking).
Cremation was rare. – For obvious reasons burials took place shortly after the death.
Cost of burials was minimal as family members did everything for themselves with the formal burial service usually read by their local religious leader at the graveside.
It is still possible for a family to make all arrangements for interment or cremation of a dead loved one without consulting a funeral director. However, it is a method that must be approached with considerable seriousness. The Natural Death Society Handbook is an invaluable source of information for family’s choosing this path.
Nowadays following a death in one’s family it is usual for them to consult a funeral director whose experience will most certainly relieve a family of distress and anxieties surrounding the formalities and arrangements to be made.
Why a humanist, non religious ceremony?
A humanist family ceremony can be more personal (certainly more relevant!) than the conventionally religious one.
Readings, poems, music, often chosen by the deceased prior to death, with family and friends making their personal tributes to the deceased for the Celebrant to read.
Relatives and friends may wish to participate individually in the ceremony, playing music or give a reading.
A competent and experienced Celebrant, after discussion with the deceased’s family and friends, will sympathetically attend to the content of the funeral service and so relieve the family of that concern at such a traumatic time.
Unlike a religious funeral ceremony where the Minister expounds on the ‘benefits’ and ‘virtues’ of their particular ideas of ‘life after death in the company of gods’ it is not the business of a Celebrant to promulgate their own non-religious beliefs or their personal views and opinions… ..they are there to help a grieving family bid farewell to their deceased loved one with dignity and make the service of farewell as relevant to the mourners as possible.
How to proceed
Make it clear to your chosen funeral director that you require a humanist, non-religious service and he will contact an experienced Celebrant on your behalf.
The Celebrant will contact you and visit you at your home where together perhaps with other family members, the content of the eulogy will be discussed.
The Celebrant will take away with him/her personal information about the deceased and compose a fitting, appropriate service based on the information they were given.
A Celebrant’s charges are normally part of the final bill charged by the funeral director.
On the day of the funeral service the Celebrant will greet the family and friends at the appointed venue and together with the funeral director make sure the proceedings are conducted with dignity.
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