Sunday, 18 October 2009

Priest attacks "modern" funerals

Some of you may have seen this article.

Speaking as someone who conducts funerals, I'm afraid I have a lot to say on this subject:

Here are a couple of quotes from the article:

Father Ed Tomlinson, of St Barnabas' Church, Quarry Road, said he had better ways of spending his time than at crematorium services where the dead were "led in by the tunes of Tina Turner...and sent into the furnace with 'I Did It My Way' blaring out across the speakers".

Better ways of spending his time than helping someone say goodbye to a loved one? That would not appear to be a very supportive or kind attitude.

He added: "I have... stood at the 'crem' like a lemon, wondering why on earth I am present."

Here's the news, Fr Tomlinson - the funeral is not about you - you are merely a tool (and I use the word carefully) to help a grieving family have some kind of ritual as they make their goodbye.

For some people, a priest at the funeral is the right thing; it allows them to pray to their god, and give them the comfort that they get from their religion. But is it really up to the church or its representatives to tell people what they should have?

Another quote in the article, from a local funeral director, suggests that many mourners don't know what they want. This is true, particularly if the death is unexpected. But that's where the skills of the undertaker and the celebrant (religious or otherwise) come into play, to let the mourners know what their options are and to only offer advice when it is requested.

The original blog post (and subsequent article) may simply be the ramblings of a particularly angry priest. However, it could backfire; having looked at the comments to the online article, it would appear that Fr Tomlinson has his supporters, but there are also those who feel that his approach to funerals is not the one that they would want.

And, of course, he managed to let people know (because not everyone does) that there is a humanist alternative to the man in a frock. For that, we thank him.


  1. What an arrogant man! I don't know about the lemon, sounds more like sour grapes to me. Life is slipping through all of our fingers, it how you do the slipping that matters. When I slip off this planet it will have been beautiful.

  2. This got a mention on the News Quiz today. Unfortunately Jeremy Hardy said he is an atheist but nevertheless is not keen on humanist funerals for some unknown reason. But he also said he was going to be strewn about when he died - not his ashes, just him!