A blogging Tunbridge Wells vicar has caused a bit of a brouhaha by roundly condemning secular cremations where the dearly departed can expect nothing better than "a poem from nan combined with a saccharine message from a pop star before being popped in the oven with no hope of resurrection".*
Father Ed Tomlinson, 35, of St Barnabas' Church posted his musings on "The death of death" in his personal blog. He lamented: "In the last few years it has become painfully obvious that many families I have conducted funerals for have absolutely no desire for any Christian content whatsoever.
"I have then stood at the Crem like a lemon, wondering why on earth I am present at the funeral of somebody led in by the tunes of Tina Turner, summed up in pithy platitudes of sentimental and secular poets and sent into the furnace with ‘I did it my way’ blaring out across the speakers!"
He added: "To be brutally honest I can think of a hundred better ways of spending my time as a priest on God’s earth. What is the point of my being present if spiritually unwanted?"
Well, the Tunbridge Wells Courier wasted no time in branding Ed the Rev's "rant" as "insensitive", and wheeled out Denise Cantor-Kaydar of CRUSE Bereavement Care to counter: "Bereavement isn't funny. We all mourn in different ways and try to select the kind of burial the person would have wanted."
This sentiment was shared by commenters to the orginal blog post, one of whom thundered: "What a hateful, bigoted and snotty tirade. Has it not occurred to you that the churches are empty because people have better things to do than sit and be hectored by fat, ill-mannered layabouts such as yourself?"
In Tomlinson's defence, another commenter insisted: "You’re my sort of bloke Father Ed… or is it Ted.
"I think that most cremations I have been to that have been run by a Humanist have all been more than off key… wrong names, forgotten children, dreadful music and that ghastly chimney. Give me a good burial with a proper vicar anytime. Its the difference between Cods Roe and Caviar…"
Back at the Courier, undertaker Robert Hickmott offered: "I think Father Ed is making a point. Non-religious funeral services are increasing and yes, people do choose Tina Turner, but a lot of families don't really know what they want."
Well, while Courier readers and Tomlinson's blog audience were pondering the difference between Cods Roe and Caviar, and indeed the requiem-mass-backed road to salvation versus the My Way highway to hell, the nationals picked up on the whole rumpus, with both the Daily Mail and the Telegraph joining the debate.
Tomlinson, meanwhile, yesterday presented his defence, in which he described himself as "saddened to read headlines suggesting I have a desire to attack those who mourn".
He explained: "It is precisely because I do care about people, living and departed, that I spoke out. It is my passionate belief that a requiem mass and the Christian prayers of ‘commendation and committal’ are not mere aesthetic choices in a market place of funeral options. Rather something real and significant is happening, on earth and in heaven, when these take place.
"Because I am a priest, I want to point the way to Jesus Christ. Naturally there will be those who disagree with my beliefs, I think they should have the right to exercise this choice even though I believe them to be misguided. But if this is your position, why invite me to the party?"
Fair enough. For the record, Tina Turner's Simply The Best was indeed number five in the most requested funeral anthem list back in 2005, but has now droppped out of the top ten. The Daily Mail helpfully notes that My Way still tops the chart, followed by Wind Beneath My Wings (Bette Midler/Celine Dion), Time to Say Goodbye (Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli), Angels (Robbie Williams) and Over the Rainbow (Eva Cassidy). You Raise Me Up is in sixth spot, with the versions by Boyzone**, Josh Grobin and Westlife all favoured. ®
*Yup, I know the feeling: it's the one I get every time I see the missus put a chicken in the oven. Praise be we're heavily insured against smoke damage.
**Feel tempted to crack a Stephen Gately quip? Try to resist.
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