Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The fuss over funerals

An Anglican priest has found his blog hit the news - time to be careful! Ed Tomlinson has caused a bit of a fuss with his comments on funerals - you can read the story here:


Basically he says that sometimes he wonders why he bothers. At the Crem he has to stand by like a lemon as people have a Tina Turner song played or "My Way" as the coffin disappears behind the curtain. He says he has better things to do.

I have some sympathy with him and in a slightly different context Jesus did say to to let the dead bury their own dead. Doubtless Jesus would get into trouble for having that on his blog.

Some personal observations from funerals I have officiated at:

  • Sometimes you do feel like a spare part as some people seem to have you there because it is the done thing. They seem to have no real interest in anything other than getting through the best way they know how. And I guess that's understandable.
  • It is emotionally gruelling to do funerals on a regular basis and I say that as someone who takes less than a dozen a year. Ed will, in all likelihood, being doing one or more a week.
  • I find that the hardest funerals to take are those where there is no obvious hope in the face of death because the deceased expressed no interest in God. Playing ''My Way'' at a funeral is a good expression of that independent spirit that says, 'I make my own rules'. The Bible calls that sin.
  • You may find this odd but the easier funerals are where you know and love the person and know that they trusted in Jesus in the face of their death. You still grieve but it is tempered by a certain joy as well - "we do not grieve as those without hope" as it says in a book I am reading.
  • I was once at funeral where "Goodbye My Lover" by James Blunt was played. It was very raw and ripped shreds out of people - a ghastly experience.
  • Most of the relatives I sit with are grateful for assistance in planning the funeral and I have never been turned down when I have offered to pray for them at the end of our meeting together. I can leave booklets about coping with grief with them.
  • The Crem service is about 22 minutes long where I am (it varies around the country) which is a little too rushed for my liking. But it gives me a little time to lead people in prayer, read a short passage from the Bible, and to speak in the address of the hope that can be found in the face of death through trusting in Christ and his forgiveness.
  • Nearly everyone I ever buried has the most wonderful person imaginable. I look forward to people being a little dishonest about me at my funeral.
  • Sometimes you wonder whether anyone is capable of hearing much at the service itself.
  • I often think that my 'aftercare service' is sadly lacking in terms of following people up a month or two down the line. Realistically do we have the resources to do this though?
  • I think that nearly all the families I have dealt with have been very thankful and they have expressed that to me.
  • I never feel like doing anything after a funeral. Which is difficult when you have a funeral in the morning.
  • I'm glad that I am able to be of assistance in this way but I don't go out of my way to look for funerals, they are hard for clergy too.


  1. > I was once at funeral where "Goodbye My Lover" by James Blunt was played. It was very raw and ripped shreds out of people - a ghastly experience.

    Surely James Blunt is always a ghastly experience...