What is a Humanist (Non-Religious) Funeral?
While the Church of England and alternative places of religious worship have been moving towards a more open order of service for funerals in the UK, allowing football themes and icons of the modern world to be enveloped.
They will never be as free of religious connotations as a form of humanist funeral ceremonies which don’t expect those in the congregation to sing hymns and listen to psalms. Although freedom of choice allows this.
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What Is A Humanist Funeral Service?
You may not have heard about the humanist society because of the way it is set up to be a non religious following – however there is an irony that it is still a form of belief system, a belief in ourselves as humans to do the right thing.
Irrespective of some Dictionary definitions it encompasses followers of all religions in an attempt to further define what it means to be human.
So what is a humanist funeral?
What Happens At A Humanist Funeral?
This isn’t a new age funeral where everything changes.
A funeral is still a funeral no matter where it is held or by whom. People are respectful and come to pay their respects. They mourn and grieve and also have light hearted discussion before and after with family and friends, they cry, they laugh, remember and partake in the collective saying of Goodbye.
So what’s different with a Humanist Funeral, it sounds the same?
There is simply very little mention of God or the Afterlife. A Humanist Celebrant designs a funeral around a Eulogy and the person whose life is to be celebrated. The focus is on the deceased and their achievements in life.
Rather than the comparison with a religious funeral where it could be said the Eulogy and person forms a part while the majority is about religion and where the person is going and how the congregation should all cope in knowing the person has found a better place to be.
The funeral itself can encompass the wishes of the deceased and those of family and friends.
More people can speak or contribute should they wish, writing poems, suggesting short memories. The service may occur in a hall, in the open air, anywhere before the committal takes place. Even within land next to a green burial site.
There will still be an Order of Service, a Celebrant will colour in the person’s life, family and friends can be pallbearers and people can stand and reminisce for the collected congregation and be complementary to the person’s life.
Yes there’s sadness, the detachment is simple from religious based service and instead accommodating more modern values of self belief and a belief in each other.
How Much Does A Humanist Funeral Cost?
When seeking to compare humanist funeral costs with those of the more traditional religious rites and practices the difference is not inherently higher or lower. Especially if the funeral service is to be held at a crematorium, which most are these days, whether religious or not.
However, because a humanist funeral ceremony is usually combined with a green burial the costs do come down by some hundreds of pounds.
Why? For the basic reason materials used for the coffin are not so expensive, of course you can choose Earth friendly coffins made from bamboo but some may simply choose a cloth to wrap the body before the deceased is committed.
The idea behind a natural funeral which a lot of Humanists choose, is that the decomposition of the surrounding elements is equal to that of the process of a body being returned to the soil without remnants or any sign someone was buried.
The burial sites tend to be unmarked, believing that a person made their mark in life and ensuring the field or woodland remains natural. Many headstones are virtual and mapped by GPS, other sites enable trees to be planted.
UK wide the cost for a funeral for Humanists does tend to be below average. There is not the increased rate for burial in a crowded cemetery, the materials can cost less and there are next to no embellishments compared to that of a coffin.
There may be no need for hall hire and a celebrant could hold a service in the open air. Generally prices are lower and the majority offer quicker burials compared to the wait time for committal elsewhere.
Where Can You Hold A Humanist Funeral?
The laws surrounding a funeral are few, the only really discerning fact in the UK is about how a person can be buried and that authorities need to be asked if it is to be on private land in some circumstances.
Because of this and in keeping with respectful traditions, a funeral could in effect be held anywhere as long as the correct permissions are obtained locally if the gathering will be large and create issues with traffic.
A funeral service could be held in a public park, a theme park, at a football ground or in the Royal Albert Hall. The committal or Memorial Service would usually take place nearer or at the place where the person will be laid to rest.
A Crematorium, or a field, woodland or a building or area close by that people can be a congregation and walk to the committal site.
Equally and across Europe and North America these types of funerals are growing in popularity.
In the whole of the United Kingdom, Wales, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland you can find alternative services ideas on the supply of non religious funerals.
Choose dedicated locations that are without church or ceremonial buildings, consider poetry and guest poems that are without mention of God and select Music UK, USA or selected from European pop charts.
Can You Have A Humanist Funeral In A Church?
Technically you could hold this type of funeral in a church but you will probably have to find a place of worship that was more open to a non religious funeral service and ceremony.
This may be hard to do however if you don’t ask you don’t find out. Crematoriums on the other hand are increasingly partisan and most are without religious affinity.
While a crematorium building is not quite as nostalgic and purposeful as a Church, they are usually decorated to a high standard and are very open to the style of funeral a Humanist may be seeking. Christians and churches are more open to other belief systems in respect of where partners of other faiths are buried also.
While you may discover that other religions may not welcome a different and wholly ungodly service in their house. That said, there are a lot of Jewish and Muslim places of worship that welcome people who have partners who wish to be buried together that are of different religion. It’s usually a local decision.
What To Wear To A Humanist Funeral?
Contrary to any notions you may have about humanists being a little hippy, it is no such thing. A funeral is still a respectful time and people dress accordingly.
Much like any ceremony the family and next of kin will advise guests of what the attire should be. Usually it’s a black tie and suit affair with the ladies invited to dress in similar attire.
However it may be that the family wishes the service to be more of a reflection of the deceased’s character.
That may see different requests issued, such as colourful clothing, or attire representing Spring, to wear a particular colour, flower or emblem and yes some even do allow some sort of sensible fancy dress if the person was fanatical about a certain genre.
Is The Order Of Service Any Different With Humanist Ideology?
The template and a humanist funeral order of service example generally follow traditional thought.
That there should be music, friends and family who speak, that a Eulogy is delivered, songs sung and perhaps quotes stated and poems read. While the Order of Service is similar to a religious funeral, in the main any talk of God and psalms read are left out.
Replaced by populist music where lyrics are attuned to the person who has died. Of course it is very difficult to escape the historic hymns that are known to many and if the references to God are only slight and are generally meaningful towards life these may be chosen.
A Humanist Celebrant will arrange readings so they reflect how the person lived their life. Which is why it is just as important to provide as much information about the person who has died.
So that stories and accounts of a person can be chosen as a time line or enable a congregation to relive those moments in an order they understand, or at least building up the greater characteristics of a person.
How Do You Plan A Humanist Funeral?
For many centuries planning a funeral was a process of falling back on tradition. The Good Book would provide stories, hymns, psalms and a way of conveying most aspects of a person’s life.
These different aspects would then be matched to the deceased’s personality, what they achieved in life, their creations, family – who they left behind, their effect on people around them and build up to be one great funeral service.
A Humanist funeral can be exactly the same, the only thing that differs is the entirely religious frame. As a non religious funeral you will still need someone to lead the service and plan it.
While a Funeral Director can do this, ultimately it is better that you find a celebrant to guide the process.
If not to be held in a Church, a Humanist Celebrant will be able to cater for your needs.
Anyone can be in this position, a family member or friend but you will most likely turn to an organisation such as the British Humanist Association to use a recommended Celebrant.
A Humanist funeral service is not set in stone, quite the opposite. It can be held anywhere and probably not in the realms of a religious building. It can involve religious quotes that are perhaps favourites or have become mainstream and use popular hymns that have meaning.
How Does A Funeral For A Humanist Compare To A Religious Funeral?
Some may disagree but essentially funerals throughout the ages have all had the same concept in common. To offer a lasting memorial to those alive, about the person who has departed.
To enable the grieving process to pursue with meaning and to look upon the loss of a loved one or friend as a collection of memories that should be cherished.A path that has seen that person meet many people, touched many lives and that as upsetting as a someone passing can be, that this is a part of natural order.
In this respect, a Humanist funeral is similar to other cultures throughout thousands of years.
What Is A Humanist Funeral Trying To Achieve?
On the other hand, the service itself can be planned around a football team, with football songs. Themed around a certain band or singer, with their quotes and songs played and sung.
Remember, this is more about a send off for the person and a celebration of their life, rather than sticking to the ethics of a singular religious or path.
The whole aim is to remember the person as they wished to be remembered.
Some public commentators define the UK as heading towards the road to becoming a Post Religious society
– A country that will have a majority population without religion or a faith.
A Humanist funeral is not the only way a non faith person can have a funeral service. But in the instance that someone who has died is not of religion or doesn’t believe in a God.
They may wish to have an alternative funeral service. It is worth nothing however, that unlike other countries, the UK’s Church of England does not demand the person have been a church goer or regular attendee.
A Church can still oversee the service and there are many parables and psalms which will be fitting for many. A person can still have a funeral in a Church and be buried in a Cemetery. Many religions also cater for non faith partners in different ways.
What Is A Humanist?
For many years, centuries, millennia, strict adherence to a religion and observation of its beliefs meant you were more likely to see an heaven and just as importantly, be able to live your life ethically.
A Humanist believes in self determined ethics while incorporating science as its foundation. Having empathy and compassion, treating others as they would be expected to be treated, generally being human without the need for exterior worship.