Given my age, I remember when Civil Celebrants first 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 now outnumber those performed by ministers of religion. The non-religious wedding has become the favored social statement.
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 all but dead. Guess what! 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 eternal hope. Still, it fulfills the desire of an increasing number of people who don't what "all that religious stuff".
The undertakers increasingly push celebrants, and I have to say, I don't blame them. They have one or two professional celebrants at call, ready to perform funerals for them. They find it easier to plan and organize with a celebrant; clergy can be very difficult. They are in and out of the office and are not always available, nor want to be available. Also, the theatrical, relevant, friendly, relaxed style of a professional celebrant often outperforms clerical verbage. If the funeral is a depressing affair it is the funeral director who gets the blame. Anyway, people increasingly don't want religious funerals. If there is no God then you don't need a minister to say magical words that can get the deceased through those pearly gates - no God means no gates.
In the final year of Jesus ministry "many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, 'Do you also wish to go away?' Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.'"