You can read his original article here.
After reading the article to the end, I drew an interesting conclusion. The difference was essentially one of the emphasis within the funeral service. The priest believed it should be the beginning of the mourning process, but through remembering the person, there may be moments of reflection and joy at having known them and shared so many memories.
The family and friends wanted to have a positive and uplifting service remembering all the good attributes and memories of the person who had passed away. To them, it was marking the end of their friend’s life and the grieving and healing process could begin in earnest after they had said goodbye.
As a supplier of funeral order of service, Fitting Farewell tend to work with families who want to celebrate the life of a loved one. We often talk to families who have had difficulty persuading the church that the service they want is appropriate, and some religions are more rigid than others in how they believe the funeral service should be conducted. We have been castigated by some priests for providing a funeral printing service, but we are always respectful, and we point out we are supplying a service the public are demanding.
There is no wrong or right way to say goodbye to a loved one. Some families may have discussed with the person before they passed away. Sometimes that person may have expressed a desire to have a more religious or more secular service. It is important that the person’s wishes are taken into consideration, if they are known.
We have known services where the person who has passed away didn’t want anyone to wear black and where songs were sung that were not hymns. One memorable example was for a humanist service where those attending sang ABBA’s ‘Thank you for the Music’. This was a choice we found very uplifting and inspiring. The trend towards personalisation will probably continue and people will have their own line in the sand that they will not cross, whether it is the church or the family of the deceased.
What heartened me was the last couple of lines of the article, which showed me that the disconnection between the church and the families is not insurmountable. I believe that the church and families can negotiate to get the service they both want. There is always the option of a humanist service and celebrants will work with families to deliver the service they want. You need to remember a humanist service cannot have any religious element so the singing of hymns or reading of psalms would not be allowed.
It is to be expected that parish priests would have concerns over personalised coffins, bespoke funeral order of service, brightly coloured outfits and music and videos being played at a funeral service. They are referring back to traditions and rituals regarding the funeral service that date back centuries. They are bound to be concerned at remaining true to those traditions and their beliefs whilst trying to cope with the pace of change that is occurring. In most cases your funeral director can act as a negotiator on your behalf and will guide you on what can be agreed. They have a long-standing relationship with many of the churches in the area and know who will be more, or less, responsive to any personalisation of the service.
The most important aspect of the funeral service is to encompass all the key elements; remember them, celebrate their life, give them the service they would want and to begin the healing process after suffering the loss of someone special. In that regard, there is a lot of common ground between the church and the families.