Many years ago, having had a death in the family, we were put in touch with a humanist celebrant. At the time, I was so relieved that such a person existed – no need to wheel in a hapless minister whose duty is to faith or dogma as much as to the family
Since then, things have changed beyond recognition and the range of choice of funeral celebrant can be quite bewildering. What I aim to do is to provide a ceremony that belongs to those closest to the person who has died. It is not “mine”, even though I may write much or all of it. It is not a platform for my views, either. It is a celebration of or a commemoration of life.
I’m as flexible as I possibly can be and as a singer I regard hymns as part of our poetic and musical heritage…sung rarely at humanist ceremonies, of course, because there is such a wealth of other music that can be included. But who could deny an old sea dog “Eternal Father” or a football fanatic “Abide With Me”? Of course most people do choose secular music, whatever their personal favourites may be. And one of the tremendous things about our work is the range of music, literature, poetry as well as personal approaches to life and death that people bring.
Memorial ceremonies are a particular interest of mine, having conducted several for people who have donated their bodies to research. I have also conducted ceremonies for the interment or scattering of ashes, as well as a seed sowing ceremony in memory of a countryside lover. When someone dies in another country, a ceremony nearer to friends and family after, perhaps, a cremation abroad has also been very important.
I’ve often led ceremonies at our nearest truly “green” burial site and am happy to advise on ceremonies conducted in such settings.
The Covid-19 pandemic altered funeral ceremonies hugely and many families found the restrictions very distressing. Working with Funeral Directors, Crematoria and Cemetery staff as well as with families all through such difficult times gave me new insights into what is really important about funeral ceremonies as well as memorials held after a simple cremation. I felt very touched to be asked to lead a ceremony attended by local dignitaries to dedicate the Covid memorial at Barham Crematorium.