When family and friends entrust us to
assist them as they consider how best to frame the funeral of a loved one or help with scattering ashes, we stand in our personal spiritual integrity without imposing it on those we are invited to honour.
It is a joy of human
diversity that though we are not all the same we are of equal value in the web
of life and Creoginity aims to authentically acknowledge and affirm those lives we are invited to celebrate.
During the course of life, many will discover a sense of the divine
and may follow a faith in which they were brought up or that resonated with
their understanding of the world in life. Others may organise personal
values around threads of wisdom taken from several faiths and philosophies.
Many cherish the golden rule that runs through all faiths: “treat others as
you would wish to be treated”.
Some might experience life in ways that are
not expressed in terms of faith, but which are nonetheless cherished as an
integral part of their experience of the world, feeling that what is important
is not so much what we believe as who we are and what we do.
Creoginity sees its role as that of honourably recalling the life of the deceased by respecting the values they expressed
in life, whether Faith, Atheist, Humanist or other.
While David is a Christian minister offering services for Methodist, Anglican, URC and other denominations by
invitation, he deeply recognises the genetic-spiritual connectedness between all
people. He and his colleagues regard each person as a unique and wonderful being and affirm the benefits to all of cooperation across spectrums of faith, culture,
philosophy and human endeavour.
David and his network partners are available, happy and willing to support Funeral Directors in offering Families and Friends of Deceased Souls, however they identified in life, meaningful frameworks for marking the end of a loved ones life.
We offer a compassionate link between Funeral Directors and Next of Kin, who we will assist and support as they express how they wish to frame their loved ones affirming funeral.
In this regard, David and other ministers he liaises with have undertaken Humanist, Pagan, Christian, Atheist and other funeral services.
"Gorton is well served by this wonderful orgnisation which caters for everyone as an individual, Long may it continue" - Brian Mulligan - Mulligan's Funeral Directors.
Visit "Funerals: Fonder Farewells" on Facebook:
Please ask your undertaker to ring us on 07927 734 419 if you wish David or one of his network partners to take your service and we will contact you to arrange to visit to discuss your needs. You may also like to use the contact us section of this website.
Deep Regard to you at this time of grieving.
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(Using humour in funerals to
capture the deceased’s character)
© Rev. David
(Punk Monk) Gray 2013
BACKGROUND and RESISTANCE:
When Queen Victoria mourned her Albert, she
set a tone for funerals in England that still influences the
way we mourn 152 years later. The wearing of black, the dower tones of a
minister reciting the 23 Psalm and periods of mourning had become
the one size fits all approach to funerals. Professionals, including
counsellors and mental health practitioners, wrote reams on the “journey of
grief”, defining how we were expected to respond at the death of a loved one. While
useful for some, for others this “expert” driven framework effectively compounded
powerful cocktails of emotions around following a death, especially for those
who could not grieve according to the perceived convention. In the main, funerals
had become humourless affairs.
Things began to change as the more joyful notes of
Afro-Caribbean and other emerging cultures sang alongside our more solemn
rituals and people began to talk about “Celebration of Life” as secular music
increasingly took preference over traditional hymns.
The Anglican script for funerals is wonderful for
those who find comfort in the familiar words, but after almost two decades of steering
close to that script it was clear to me that for most people today, its
formula’s are not familiar and offer little connection or comfort to an
increasing majority of people and People need connection when grieving someone who
has been a huge part of their life.
After resigning my Anglican bishop’s license, I
was free as an Interfaith practitioner and Tau Franciscan member of the Society
of Independent Christian Ministers to offer people services that were about
them and their understanding of life, death and the cosmos. When people
increasingly asked for my services, including many frustrated with churches they
had belonged to but which had shown little Christ likeness towards women;
children; other faiths; lesbian, gay, bi and trans people; other cultures; the
poor and a long list of others who did not fit their limited view of what it is
to be divinely loved human, I got a lot of flack. One senior churchman accused
a family who had asked me to do their Mother’s funeral of being misguided. Even
though they had little connection with the church, in the midst of their grief
he was trying to bully them into having a church service. I’d been totally
unaware of this until he turned up at the service and collard me afterwards to
tell me he would do all he could to use the influence of the bishops in the House
of Lords to make it illegal for anyone other than a parish priest to do
funerals for those not affiliated to a particular faith. It was only after he
stormed off and family members came over to ask if I was ok that I learned the
manipulative and offensive way he had tried to put pressure on them.
Another churchman (it was always the men) accused
me of robbing the church of its rightful revenue because I reduce my fees for
families who are struggling. In his view, the fee’s had been set by synod and
everyone should pay the full amount to the church. I even received a letter
from a bishop demanding that I stopped doing funerals on “his” patch. But I’ve
stood up to bullies all my life and was acutely aware through my previous work
as a counsellor, mental health practitioner and social worker of how many
people had been deeply damaged by such abusive assumption of authority over
other people’s lives. This had nothing whatsoever to do with the Jesus I know
who meets people where they are, loves them for who they are and invites them
graciously to reconnect with their selves of divine intention.
Thankfully, the world is changing and the majority
of church folk are changing with it as they get back in touch with the gospel
example of meeting others without judgement or dogma. As the old guard march
into the sunset, a more wholesome church is emerging.
In time, those who think its about them and their personal power, position, income
and theologically trained intellect will be replaced by honest to goodness men
and women whose hearts are opened to the whole human family. Such people will
realise that funerals, like weddings, naming ceremonies and other rites of
passage – and they are rights as much as they are rites that no institution
should monopolise – are not about them, but about the real, flesh and blood
human beings they are invited to offer services that are only divine because,
like Jesus, Gandhi and all great faith figures, they are truly human.
The words via which folk let go of a loved one
have to mean something to them and have to be relevant to the life of the
person they remember. Without such connection, people are in a low energy place
from which it is difficult to move on.
When folk are grieving, the ingredients of that
cocktail of emotions referred to previously may include: loss, anger, anxiety,
guilt or pain. If the person delivering the service and in particular the
eulogy that tells the story of the person being remembered listens carefully to
what loved ones are saying and reflects this back in the delivery, funerals can
become uplifting experiences that don’t sweep grief away but, by reminding us
of the authentic character of a person, help us move several steps out of the
mire of grief on our journey of recovery.
Though the examples I’m
about to give may not seem funny to anyone who didn’t know the person they
concern, to those for whom these accounts were written the humour was priceless
and helped stimulate the ventilation of grief and the sharing of memories when
people gathered at the local pub or in a family home for refreshments.
1: “Good Golly
Molly, Ron’s wife of over sixty years had died and
he was feeling empty as we discussed the funeral together with his children.
During our chat, Ron had got quite animated when talking about their courtship
and the music they had enjoyed during the sparkle of their youth.
Solemn organ music played as I bowed before the
closing curtains at the end of the service – before the sound of Little Richard
belting out “Good Golly Miss Molly!” filled the chapel. When I offered that frail
old man my arm, his eyes lit up and to the applause and laughter of his family,
he and I danced out of the crematorium together.
Ron’s son brought him to see me some months after
Molly’s funeral. Ron chatted animatedly
about Molly’s funeral and smiled as he hinted that I was to do his funeral
soon. He was right. It too was energised by an authentic telling of his
Riders in the Sky:
When I met Dave to arrange his biker brother’s funeral,
what he told me recalled my memories of watching black and white news coverage
as a youngster in which people claimed to have seen comets and UFO’s dancing above
Snake Pass between Manchester and Sheffield. Come the day of the funeral we
went in to “Ghost Riders in the Sky”. These extracts from the service will give
you an idea why:
from 1970’s news reports:
“News just in: two
police officers patrolling in Derbyshire close to the town of Glossop late last Wednesday evening reported
seeing strange lights travelling at speed along the Snake Pass”.
“It was as if two
comets were dancing over the tops”, said PC Barrington. I’ve ne’er seem owt
“A couple parked in a
lay-by at the foot of Snake pass last weekend claim to have sighted two Unidentified
Flying Objects hurtling across the sky”.
“It were proper eerie”,
said a young lady, who asked to remain nameless. “Who knows what might have
happened if I’d not told him to get us out of there quickly? Why, we might have
been kidnapped by Alien’s!”
“I know what MIGHT have happened”, said her
companion, with a look of deep disappointment on his face.
FROM the EULOGY:
… Melvyn and his mate
Icky were a couple of genuine, hallmarked greasers. Icky could strip a
motorbike to the bone and put it back together in the time it took most people
to boil an egg. Icky’s hands wore a constant covering of grease and he and
Melvyn had a little hobby that started a legend over in them there hills.
Snake Pass between Manchester and Sheffield
is a favourite route for bikers. Back in the day, it was notorious for biker
races. It was also notorious for biker fatalities. Nevertheless, Icky and
Melvyn used to race across the Snake regularly at breakneck speeds. Being
clever buggers, they took precautions. They didn’t go slower, nor did they wear
O, no! The precautions Melvyn
and Icky took were that they rode at night when you could see the headlights of
approaching cars long before you were jam on their bonnet and being Gorton lads
who’d learned a trick or two from– Gorton’s Belle Vue Aces, the world’s best
Speedway team, like speedway riders the pair wore one boot of steel apiece,
which they’d drag along the stony road as back-up brakes.
Those reports I read
earlier are just some of the quotes relating to rumours of comets flashing over
back in the day and of sightings of UFO’s o’er the tops. Truth can now be told
without fear of prosecution: those comets were none other than Melvyn and his
mate Icky – the ghost riders in the sky.
& the LION:
When I visited “Uncle Terry’s” loved ones, I
learned that his dress sense – influenced by his love of Music Hall comedians –
was totally uncoordinated. The day of the funeral I wore a red woollen jacket,
yellow trousers, one red boot, one blue boot and a floppy fedora hat. The lips
of the first four rows moved in precise synchrony with Stanley Holloway’s rendition
of Uncle Terry’s party piece “Albert and the Lion” as they entered into the
spirit of his life. The following excerpt from Uncle Terry’s eulogy recounts
his experience as a young soldier in Egypt during the Suez Crisis,
where Terry’s courage earned him a medal for being first
in the NAFFI every morning.
“Now inevitably, with
so many soldiers out in the desert there needed to be more than ample provision
for their ablutions. When ower Terry was appointed to latrine duty, he
remembered some words of wisdom he’d heard from a keeper at Belle Vue Zoo as a
boy: “Never hang around the tail of an elephant you’ve given a laxative to!””
“That advice saved
Terry a lot of bovver, for the effluence from all those calls of nature was
stored in massive sewage tanks, which had to be disposed of somehow and
somewhere. The British Army solution was to load them onto Lorries so a local
driver, escorted by six sappers, could transport them far into the desert where
the sappers could bury the evidence deep in the sand.
His fellow soldiers
thought riding in the truck where they could catch the warm weather was a bit
of an outing. Terry, of course, had other ideas. He always got into the cab
with the driver where, despite the confined space and heat, Terry reckoned he
got the best deal. It transpires that if the British had upset the locals in
any way, the driver would find the bumpiest routes into the desert. What
happens when a tank of effluence goes over a bump? Yes, you’re ahead of me: it
sloshes and it slops over the sides. Terry always arrived somewhat sweaty – but
his mates always seemed to have travelled through a heavy shower of chocolate
A post conflict dig of
those desert sands led to the discovery of a Mummy encased in a six inch layer
of chocolate. It was a while before the archaeologists realised they had not,
after all, discovered the remains of Pharaoh Rocher.
Conjuring up the
character of the person they have known may help kick-start the sharing of
memories that will continue at the wake, but what if you are dealing with
deeper tragedy? Sometimes, it is the deceased themselves who guides you as to
how best help their loved ones through the funeral.
When Lorraine Hill knew
she was dying from cancer and would not see her three young children grow up,
she showed a level of courage and wisdom that will stay with me to the end of
my own days.
Lorraine talked with her
partner and left him written instructions about practical things like school
times, household bills and diets, but she talked with her children about how
they should shape her funeral. Natalie, who would soon be eleven, remembered a
“Mad Monk” from Gorton Monastery coming into her school.
“I know him”, her
Mother said. “That daft sausage will understand. Get him to do the funeral but you
lot need to decide how it shapes up”.
Nat’s younger brother
and sister were only small, but they enjoyed helping her and older brother
Nathan design “Punk Monk” for the day of their Mother’s funeral. As people
turned up at the crematorium, they looked askance at the man dressed as a clown
with a bright red Mohawk hair style.
“Its Ronald McDonald ob
acid”, one chap opined.
But when the cortege
arrived and the children leaped out to greet me and receive colouring books and
crayons, no-one was left in any doubt that today was for Lorraine’s children.
The service was a
telling of stories peppered with magic. Sensitively, Lorraine’s children were
reminded that their Mother’s love was so strong that though she never wanted to
leave them, she was doing so with such grace and bravery that they would never
doubt the lasting bond of love between them and their Mother as they grew up.
I’ve done the funerals
of children – sometimes more than once in the same family; of murder victims;
people who died in tragic accidents; suicides and a whole range of scenarios. As
a veterans chaplain I’ve done the funerals of soldiers, sailors and airmen. Each
situation is different. There is no script that covers all the circumstances that
crop up in this particular aspect of my work. Inevitably, there are tears at
every funeral I do – often my own. Indeed, if a day dawns when I don’t cry
while preparing someone’s service from scratch, it will be time for me to pass
the mantle on to another soul. That said, if those grieving don’t laugh at
least once during the service, I will have failed to tap into their own inner
resources; their incredible capacity to cope with life after the death of their
Of course, it’s not
just about humour. Faith, storytelling, science, music and so many other
threads need to be woven into the tapestry of any funeral service. Neither is
it just about the service. Many skills and qualities are involved in the
contact with family members both before and after the day of the funeral
There are, naturally, many
good parish priests with the life experience and personal qualities to offer
good services to the bereaved. Services like those provided by myself and other
Creoginity ministers with Christian, Pagan, Humanist and Interfaith backgrounds
represent an emerging trend towards remembering someone in a bespoke,
celebratory service that honours the deceased persons own approach in life
while tenderly regarding those who loved them.
Is Queen Victoria turning in her grave?
Does anyone have anyquestions?