Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

Bishop declaims celebratory funerals.

Posted in Uncategorized by sheelanagigcomedienne on June 9, 2010

Another Church of England vicar comes out against modern, “celebratory” funerals

A Father Ed Tomlinson received widespread attention for lambasting Humanist funerals on his blog back in October  when he criticised the personalised, celebratory nature of our funerals.

Now, Bishop of Chester, Reverend Peter Forster, has similarly rubbished modern funeral services for skimping on “proper solemnity” by hand picking music and poetry to the family’s liking, rather than using the Church stuff that he likes!  Bishop Forster (who has previously been investigated over homophobic comments and made the highest level of expenses claims of bishops in the House of Lords for 2008-09) seems to be primarily criticising Christians who don’t realise that his Church believes in bodily resurrection (rather than the detachment of a disembodied soul upon death) but he does also pick out the “celebratory” and personal aspects of modern services for criticism.

He wrote: “My mind has been concentrated by another experience, which is becoming more common: to go to a funeral, only to find that the cremation or burial has taken place earlier in the day, and the funeral has become a celebration of the deceased’s life.

“Why does this jar with me so much? There have always been occasions when of necessity a funeral has been held without a body, but that seems different from a deliberate decision to hold a small private ‘funeral’ before a larger ‘celebration’ or ‘commemoration’. I think there are several reasons why I regret this new trend in our society, and especially when it invades the Church.

“Firstly, it easily gives the impression that our bodies don’t matter much, that the essential ‘me’ is a disembodied soul or spirit. It was precisely such a view, common in the ancient world, that (like Judaism) Christianity rejected. I believe in the resurrection of the body: that statement is not in the Creed for nothing. It emphasises that we are created, taken from the dust of the earth, and that it is this world which God has chosen to redeem and re-create.

“We are not spiritual chips off some cosmic block longing to return home: we are sacred individuals, made in God’s image, body, soul and spirit.

“Secondly, these new funeral practices can seem to put death to one side, to ignore or even deny its reality. Some poems read at funerals give the same impression: ‘I have only slipped into the next room’, etc. Some music chosen at funerals likewise seems out of place, missing the proper solemnity which should mark the death of a child of God.”


The old misery wants funerals to be as grim and solemn as possible.  I have just been looking at our celebrants’ forum where the topic is humour at funerals. I have said that humour is essential to  humans and therefore it is an important part of our ceremonies.

This religious leader actually believes that there is a parallel universe with dead humans reunited with their body, presumably just in the state it was before it ‘shuffled of its mortal coil’. It is not at all clear how they live, eat, move,  continue to age etc.  He believes that he is going to join them when he ‘pops his clogs’.

We are not ‘spirtual chips of a cosmic block’, says he but made in God’s image, body, soul and spirit!!  Which God might that be? There’s your christian’s God – a trinity -father, son and holy ghost, your Muslim God called Allah which they refuse to depict and there is the multitude of Gods referred to in Dave Allen’s farewell ‘May your God go with you’. The place is teeming with them.

This lunatic bishop decries the poem which includes the words “I have only slipped into the next room” . This is a poem which I hate that was written by Canon Scott-Holland, who was Dean of St. Pauls Cathedral!

This silly Bishop claims that new funeral practices ignore or deny the reality of death.  Yet denying death is what religion is about – it is its raison d’etre. Religion is for people who don’t want to die and want the promise/consolation of a life after death.

You have to give it these Bishop chappies they are good for a laugh.


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