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Humanist funerals recognise the profound sadness of saying goodbye whilst also celebrating the life and legacy of a loved one.


Here we explain the basics: what happens at a humanist funeral, what a ‘celebrant’ is and how a truly meaningful and unique ceremony comes to be written.


T


he 2011 census showed that at least a quarter of us are not religious, and certainly many of us know we wouldn’t want a


religious funeral for ourselves. So it’s no surprise that there has been an enormous increase in the number of non-religious funerals over recent years. But choosing the right person to lead a


funeral can seem overwhelming, especially at an already difficult time. So how do you work out who would be the right person for your given situation?


The British Humanist Association is the UK’s longest-established provider of non-religious funerals. Humanist funeral ceremonies are a popular choice for people from all walks of life; in recent years those having a humanist funeral have included Bob Monkhouse, Ronnie Barker, Linda Smith and Claire Rayner.


WHY DO PEOPLE CHOOSE A HUMANIST FUNERAL? Often because they feel it will most accurately reflect the personality or outlook of the person who has died. And many people come to us having been to another humanist funeral and been deeply affected by it, some even telling us they were surprised to find themselves enjoying it.


I’M NOT SURE IF THE PERSON WHO HAS DIED COULD BE CALLED A ‘HUMANIST’. DOES THIS MATTER? Not at all. Our funerals are available to anyone who wants to mark their loved one’s life in a non-religious, personal, meaningful way. And every funeral is carefully designed to be inclusive of all present; our celebrants are there to provide an appropriate and individual funeral, not to promote a cause.


“Dawn captured Dad’s story completely. She was honest, truthful and compassionate. Her empathy skills were outstanding.” Testimonial from client Kim Wells


WHERE ARE HUMANIST FUNERALS HELD? Most are held in crematoria and some at burial grounds but, since funeral services themselves have no legal status, they can be held wherever a family wishes (with the consent of the venue).


HOW MUCH DOES A HUMANIST FUNERAL COST? The 2013 fee band for a British Humanist Association funeral is between £140 and £190. The exact price can be confirmed by the celebrant or funeral director.


HOW ARE MEMORIAL SERVICES ORGANISED? We conduct a growing number of memorial services and these are held at a variety of venues. Sometimes this is for practical reasons; perhaps the person died overseas or a very intimate funeral was requested. But, whatever the reason, a memorial service can give a family more flexibility about how, when and where they say goodbye to their loved one.


50 Farewell Magazine


• HUMANISM is a positive approach to life based on reason, experience and a concern for humanity and the natural world.


• HUMANISTS believe we each have one life, and one life only, and that meaning and value lie in what we make of that life.


• HUMANIST FUNERALS concentrate not on ‘life after death’ but on the life lived and its impact on others.


• THE BRITISH HUMANIST ASSOCIATION (BHA) is a registered national charity representing the needs of non-religious people. The provision of high-quality funeral, wedding and naming ceremonies is a big part of this work.


Many humanist funerals are held at crematoria.


SAMPLE STRUCTURE OF A HUMANIST FUNERAL. Each ceremony is unique and written specifically for the person who has died. Many are broadly structured as follows:


• INTRODUCTORY MUSIC – as the coffin is brought in


• WORDS OF WELCOME •


TRIBUTE – the life story, including readings or poems and personal contributions by friends and family


• TIME FOR REFLECTION – private time to think about the person who has died in your own way, sometimes with music


• COMMITTAL - the formal goodbye - often the curtains close or the coffin moves away


• CLOSING WORDS • FINAL MUSIC


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