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Reform Magazine | December 2, 2021

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It’s my funeral

It’s my funeral

Or is it? Donald Norwood argues for mutual respect in the complexities of farewells

Is it only mine? ‘No man is an island,’ said John Donne, adding, ‘Every man’s death diminishes me’. Often it is only at a funeral that we discover how much our lives meant to so many different people. Covid restricted gathering together and that has been very painful. But we could still write or phone and often Zoom in. In January, my wife and I shared in two thanksgivings on the same morning, one in Devon, the other in Kent. But for Zoom, we might have been absent from both.

When Fred died (real examples, not real names), the family contemplated a family funeral and their first choice was to ask Alan, the former minister who married Fred and Mavis, to take the funeral. But Fred wasn’t just family. He had been a town councillor and mayor, and director and part owner of a well-known local store. Unless the family insisted on a private committal, our church would be packed. All did come, including all the members of the council in their robes.

Alan should not have agreed to take part except by invitation of the current incumbent. Anglicans and Methodists have clear rules about this. The United Reformed Church should too.

When Joan, who had no immediate family, died, her next of kin planned a small service in their nearest crematorium. But Joan was much loved and respected by all the members of our church as the lady who each week arranged beautiful displays of flowers for Saturday weddings and Sunday services. So it seemed right to hold a memorial service in the church and ask one of her helpers to put on a fine display of her favourite flowers. Sadly, the next of kin only wanted a reception after the crematorium and did not come…

Donald Norwood is engaged in ecumenical research in Oxford

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This is an extract from an article published in the November 2021 edition of Reform

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