Modern Funeral Ritual

The funeral was massive. At least £2000 on flowers that could have gone to Cancer Research or to the Church building appeal (much needed) or at least something worthwhile went on floral tributes that basically no-one is going to see again. Those ones which spell out a name or (more commonly a releationship) are £60 a letter – a letter – so M.U.M.M.Y was about £300 alone. A single rose speaks volumes… and puts money better spent elsewhere.

In keeping with the Spirituality of the modern age, there were no hymns. Just as well, as clearly, I’d be the only one singing, and that is a tragedy. I listed the music in and out, but almost at the last moment thought it needed something to transform it. The last track: ‘somewhere only we know’ by Keane had the right sense to it, so I expanded the act of commendation, saying something like:

“As we have the opportunity to listen to these words, [name’s coffin will
be surrounded by incense, which symbolises being surrounded by our prayers. As the scent of holiness pervades this place, it settles into your clothes, and surrounds us just as God’s love surrounds and envelopes us. It is something I hope that you will take away with you…”

I played the track, got the thurible out which I had lit just before; scraped and blew just as they taught me at theological college (and which I continue to bore for England on ‘the right way to burn incense’) and added my lovely Glastonbury flavour incense. Filled the chancel with sweet smell and then proceeded to cense the coffin. I think it worked. I sense it worked. I pray, Oh God, may it have worked for least someone. It worked for me at least.

I asked the congregation to stand before the end of the track, and as the track died away, I gave the commendation:

God our creator and redeemer,
by your power Christ conquered death and
entered into glory.
Confident of his victory and claiming his promises,
we entrust [name to your mercy
in the name of Jesus our Lord,
who died and is alive
and reigns with you,
now and for ever.

In peace let us now take [name to her place of rest.

and played the track once more. Hope I get my mp3 player back.

We sometimes need to take risks in liturgy and in the use of ritual to express the inexpressible. Without this, liturgy cannot successfully explore the emotions which it seeks to carry. This afternoon was one of thopse occasions, and the God of Surprises pulls it off again. Deo Gratias!