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Humanist Funerals

A humanist funeral is the most honest and appropriate way to mark the end of a life of somebody who did not practice any religious faith.

When making funeral arrangements, one of the first questions the funeral director will ask is whether the deceased had religious convictions.

If the deceased was an aetheist or a humanist, then the funeral director is likely to suggest a humanist officiant to take the funeral ceremony.

The officiant may belong to British Humanist Association, or may be an independent officiant.

Life-focussed approach

A humanist ceremony is focused solely on the life of the person, the way in which they led that life and shared it with their family and friends.

As well as a formal opening and close to the ceremony, the officiant coordinates the central tribute. On occasions when asked by the family the officiant may do all the speaking for the family and on other occasions be more a 'Master of Ceremonies' guiding those who are attending on what to do and when.

The tribute is the main part of the ceremony; an extended appreciation of the life, personality and achievements of the person who has died.

The speaker(s) will think about the memories they have, recall anecdotes and quite possibly a little humour. Relatives, friends or colleagues wishing to speak will normally do so during this section.

Quiet reflection

A humanist funeral is non religious not anti religious and, during a period of listening to music, the officiant will invite those attending to use the time to reflect on the life that has closed and for those with a particular faith to use the time for their private prayers.

However, there will be no prayers spoken out loud or hymns sung. The piece of music for this quiet reflection should be thought about carefully.

Explaning to concerned family members

Some members of the family may be concerned about a funeral without religion.

The explanation is that the main consideration is a funeral which is right for the person who has died, or whose funeral is being planned.

Indeed, those who were dubious before the event are actually moved to find a humanist ceremony so meaningful and dignified.

It is a simple question of honesty - if the person did not believe in a God, then why should that person have a religious funeral stating beliefs and concepts that he or she didn’t share or agree with?

Will it be a meaningful farewell if the event is a religious ritual but the person who has died did not believe in any religion?

Modern British funeral

There is a growing recognition that a mix of secular and religious ceremonies are appropriate for many people. This type of funeral is becoming known as the Modern British funeral, normally carried out in churches or chapels.

For those who feel a religious setting is not appropriate, Civil ceremonies and interfaith funerals are most suitable for other venues.

Most funeral directors will know a wide range of secular officiants and, having worked with them over a period of years, can give first hand recommendations.

If making your own funeral arrangements, or those of a loved one, and you want to organise a humanist funeral, leave clear instructions in your Lifebox so that your executor and family know your funeral wishes.

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Paul Brown wrote on 8 Dec 10 at 5:04pm
Paul Brown

Tips on funerals for humanists is hard to come by, thanks for the great advice.

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