Humanist Funerals becoming more common.
Humanist funeral arrangements can be specified with most prepaid funeral plan providers, and humanist funerals have been the subject of recent scientific study.
What is a humanist funeral?
A humanist funeral is a funeral service with the religion taken out of it. A good humanist celebrant (funeral conductor) will ensure that the ceremony is suitably dignified and also a celebration of the persons life. “Suitably” dignified may well be tailored to the individual and certainly doesn’t have to mean “stuffy.” The Humanist funeral should allow the sadness of saying goodbye to combine with a celebration of the life and legacy of a loved one.
What happens at a humanist funeral?
The humanist celebrant (assuming you decide to employ one) will work with the family to create a unique and personal ceremony, typically including music and readings. However, the heart of the ceremony is the tribute section (or eulogy). This is typically prepared by the celebrant working with the family. It may include several individual tributes from family and friends. Time for private thought is allowed, then the committal, and the funeral is drawn to a close with final words of thanks.
Where are humanist funerals held?
You are free to hold one wherever you choose, but most humanist funerals are held at crematoria, cemeteries or woodland burial sites.
How do I find a funeral celebrant?
Your funeral director will be able to recommend someone, or you can contact a celebrant directly and tell the funeral director (if you are using one) who will be conducting the ceremony. The British Humanist Association has a find-a-celebrant search facility enables you to search for all British Humanist Association accredited celebrants working in your area: just enter your postcode and you’ll be given a list of people you can contact. You can of course choose a non member or just a friend or family member if you prefer.
How much does a humanist funeral celebrant charge?
Fees do vary widely, but they are typically in the same cost range as church ministers. But don’t be afraid to ask as the fees are entirely a matter for the individual celebrant, and the typical funeral plan just allows for an amount broadly equivalent to a minister of religion.
What about hymns etc?
Just because the ceremony is not religious as such, there is no reason at all while readings from the bible or other religious books cannot take place. Similarly, some will find re-assurance in familiar hymns. A humanist ceremony is intended to be inclusive, not exclusive.
Humanist funerals today.
Funeral directors need to be aware of the needs of non-religious people. A unique investigation into the subject funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) provides a snapshot of a defining aspect of life – or indeed death.
“The issue of death is one of the most important incidents that all societies deal with,” says Dr Matthew Engelke, at the London School of Economics. “I wanted to look at how, in contemporary society, people who do not believe in an afterlife are commemorated at a funeral.”
To carry out the research, Dr Engelke focused on funerals provided by the British Humanist Association (BHA). “It was clear that the people who chose these funeral services were not necessarily humanists or atheists. They generally described themselves as ‘non-religious’, which covered the entire spectrum from absolute atheist to a more general lack of commitment or belief, especially when it comes to organised religion.”
One of the most striking aspects of BHA funeral ceremonies is that they strive to be true to the individual, to reflect as best as possible the character, world views and the sensibilities of the person who has died. “The focus is almost exclusively on the person, which is often not the case with the more traditional religious ceremonies” says Dr Engelke.
This emphasis on the individual is an increasingly important phenomenon in modern Western life, suggests Dr Engelke. In many societies, and in ritual ceremonies down the ages, the place of the individual in the ritual is often the least important consideration.
In humanist ceremonies, being true to the individual is most central. Dr Engelke commonly came across family members and friends who said: “We told the funeral director John did not go to church so we did not want a vicar to take the funeral”.
“This gives an intriguing glimpse into the extent to which modern citizens feel it important to express their uniqueness and individuality”, says Dr Engelke.
“It is important for social scientists to look at these key moments in life, as it is through these that we get a sense of the most significant issues that matter to people and understand what it means to be non-religious in a modern British society,” continues Dr Engelke. “And I think one of the best places to start is ritual services such as funerals.”