A Church Funeral?

  (03 May 08)
  by Greg Spearritt

Pamela Bone, erstwhile journalist with the Melbourne Age and long-time secularist, chose to have her funeral in a church. Louise Adler reports her reasoning:


It may seem hypocritical, after I have spent many years of my life in journalism writing columns about the harm done by religion, to want to have a funeral in a church. I go to my death without any sense that God exists, or that there is an afterlife. However, I love old hymns, religious poetry, church spires … I am a cultural Christian … I have written that all the good things we can get from religion can be had without religion, and I still believe this …


I am an atheist, in that I don't believe in God. Yet I also admit that I don't know whether God, some higher being, or whatever else you might call it, exists … My position remains that I don't know, that no one really knows … I believe in people, that's all I know.


I share Bone’s sentiments, and I do not presume in any way to judge her choices. However, if I have any choice in the matter I won’t be having a church funeral  unless somehow the church manages to let go of homophobia, sexism, idolatry/literalism, racism and moralism. But then, given the wonders of modern science, pigs might fly…



I am surprised by Pamela Bone's decision but understand her reasoning. In recent discussions with SoFiA members I've come to recognise the strength of their emotional engagement (I call it) with religious music, architecture and rituals. While many reject the doctrines,the dogmatism and the role of the clergy, they nevertheless remain emotionally attached to aspects of the church. Many continue to attend church services. So wanting to have a funeral in a church is understandable.

But not for me. And probably not for the vast number of those who are currently of the younger generation who have not attended church enough to generate any emotional engagement. Herein lies the very acute long term problem for the church.

Give it 20 years and few people will retain the sort of emotional engagement that Pamela Bone has (I believe)illustrated.

Posted by Scott McKenzie

I attended a wedding at St Mary's church South Brisbane yesterday. Peter Kennedy called himself the celebrant and did not wear a clerical collar. Others may know just how other services are conducted here and how Father Kennedy accepts all kinds of people, perhaps without exception. All was very informal, organised by the couple, yet people were in their best clothes and there were musicians and a choir made us of friends. There were no seats in the main isle, they were located around the outer isles.

So from this experience, I would prefer to have a funeral service here if Peter Kennedy or someone who followed his example presided.

Posted by helen mason

Well, who are funerals for and who owns the dead body?
I know it has become popular again to plan your own funeral and couple of years ago I went to a coffin-decorating workshop at the UK Sea of Faith Conference. It proved very worthwhile. However I consider that funerals are really for the well-being of the folk left behind. After all it is they who are left with the emotional turmoil of bereavement and a funeral ceremony is a first step in this process. So let them have it where they want it to be. Odds are they'll respect your wishes but perhaps not but I will be past caring.

And the crematorium, is it free of all those ills mentioned by the blogger?

Posted by Judith Bore

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