[Rector]

Civil celebrants

 

I remember when Civil Celebrants began to appear on the scene. The church was suitably shocked, and expressed outrage at this attack on the spiritual life of the nation. Here was government attempting to ease the church out of the nation's psyche. As it turned out, weddings by celebrants are now beginning to outnumber those performed by ministers of religion. The non-religious wedding is becoming the favoured social statement. These days you have to book early if you want to get your half-hour slot.

One of my colleagues noted that the great test in Western societies will come when people get celebrants to conduct their funerals. A wistful belief in God and the hope of eternity calls for a minister to say the last words over a loved-one. The words may be the means of accessing eternity. As my friend pointed out, once people lose even that hope, then institutional Christianity is in for hard times. Of course, we are in those times now. More and more funerals are conducted by celebrants who babble on about "lasting memories", bolstered with poetry readings, music, flapping doves and falling petals. Beautiful presentations, artistic even, theatrical, but without the hope of resurrection. Still, it fulfills the desire of an increasing number of people who don't what "all that religious stuff".

The undertakers increasingly push celebrants. They have one or two professional celebrants at call, ready to perform funerals for them. They find it easier to plan and org anise with a celebrant. Clergy can be very difficult. They are in and out of the office and are not always available. Also, the theatrical, relevant, friendly, relaxed style of a professional celebrant often outperforms the droning verbiage of the clergy. Yet above all it is the request of an increasing number of relatives that the service for their loved-one not be "religious". This may mean religious verbiage, meaningless unrelated sentences, but if often means "evangelistic". They don't want the funeral turned into an evangelistic occasion.

So in the Western democracies people have definitely begun to adopt secularism. If there is no God then you don't need a minister to say magical words that can get the deceased through them pearly gates. No God means no gates. Still, maybe it's the church that people no longer believe in (if they ever did). Getting through the pearly gates is not something ministers can control. Very true! But that's another story.