October 20, 2009 / 4:08 PM / 11 years ago

Vicar bemoans pop songs and bad prose at funerals

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - An English vicar said he felt his role was superfluous at funerals which featured pop music and bad prose from grieving participants.

Church of England priest Father Edward Tomlinson angered bereavement councilors and humanist groups with a blog that questioned the role of a priest at non-religious services at the crematorium, where tunes such as Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” or Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” feature in the ceremony.

“I have stood at the Crem like a lemon, wondering why on earth I am present at the funeral of somebody led in by the blaring 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 wrote on the website for St Barnabus Church in the southern English county of Kent.

His comments have prompted debate over what is an appropriate way to mourn and led one bereavement charity to brand his blog “pretty insensitive.”

“Bereavement isn’t funny. We all mourn in different ways and try to select the kind of burial the person would have wanted,” Denise Cantor-Kaydar from Cruse told the Courier newspaper in Kent.

Entitled “The death of death” Tomlinson’s blog attacked civil funerals saying he is troubled that pastoral care is being left in the hands of those whose main aim is to make money.

“The best our secularist friends (and those they dupe) can hope for is a poem from nan combined with a saccharine message from a pop star before being popped in the oven with no hope of resurrection,” Tomlinson said.

The British Humanist Association said their funerals are a good way for people to pay personal tribute “with words and music particularly fitting to them.”

“What a shame this particular priest seems more concerned with his own feelings than allowing bereaved people a ceremony that reflects their beliefs and wishes and those of the loved ones they have lost,” said Tana Wollen, BHA’s Head of Ceremonies said.

Tomlinson has defended his blog in a follow up posting, where he said it was never his intention to criticize people’s taste in music.

“I was actually seeking to raise a question which is important for all society -‘what are funerals for?’” he said.

A survey carried out earlier this year found that only 35 percent of Britons chose religious music at funerals, a fall of six percent on four years earlier.

The song played the most at funerals is “My Way” by Frank Sinatra or Shirley Bassey. Other popular tunes include Celine Dion’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “Angels” by Robbie Williams, according to a poll carried out by Co-operative Funeralcare.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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