Funeral Service conducted by an Interfaith Minister
Interfaith Ministers offer a clear and simple funeral service for today.
A meaningful funeral service or memorial service is important for marking the completion of a life and to help those left behind to release the loved one, friend or colleague. Meeting the needs and beliefs not only of the deceased, but of all who attend a funeral, is important. When this is a central theme, everyone attending, regardless of faith or views, will feel included.
A service created especially for you by an Interfaith Minister will reflect the true spirit of the person whose life is being celebrated, and encompass all who attend.
How to find an Interfaith Minister near you
To locate your nearest Interfaith Minister, simply use our online Find-a-Minister function and search by Town/City, Postcode, County or Country. Or you can select 'Funerals' in the 'Services Offered' option to see a list of all ministers conducting funerals. Alternatively, call 0333 332 1996 in the UK and press 2 for 'funeral services' if you need help in an emergency.
Why would a funeral led by an Interfaith Minister be appropriate?
Because a funeral today often includes people attending from different faiths or none. Our Ministers are mature men and women who have followed a two-year training programme with the Interfaith Seminary, where the inner spiritual truths of the individual and at the heart of the world's great faith traditions ar recognised. There are countless paths leading to the One God / Truth / Great Spirit / Source-of-All.
Other sources of help
There is an additional online listing of funeral celebrants that includes many interfaith ministers.
"I am writing to express my gratitude and to share with you the most beautiful "Home Coming" ceremony for my mother. My mother knew that there were three parts to her "being" on earth and so three parts to her departure. Her home coming ceremony therefore reflected this knowing by sharing our memories of her by sitting in a circle and sharing poems, songs, readings, and the memories and wisdom she had given to each of us and through the lighting of candles. We then moved to the beach where we threw petals into her beloved sea, with the metaphor of each wave being but a life as we break upon the shore and then return to the onesness that is God. There were people all over the world joining us at this time throwing petals into gardens and across their lounges as we said farewell and wished mum a happy home coming.. a return to the ocean..that unversal consciousness. The day was not just sprinkled but littered...strewn, with symbolic "happening" of gifts, healing and messages that embodied all that is my mother. So many have already said to me what an amazing and healing experience it has been, and how much joy they have gained from being apart of it."
The following article was written by Rev Angie Alexandra, and an edited version was published in the Funeral Service Times in 2007:
Funerals for 'non-religious' believers . . .
Today it's becoming more common for people to regard themselves as 'non-religious' because they don’t take part in organised religion or visit a house of worship. It seems what this often means in practice, in the context of a funeral or memorial, is that the bereaved family would like prayerful words, a favourite hymn perhaps, and a reference to the possibility of an afterlife.
All the funeral ceremonies I've held have been termed 'non-religious' by the families who have asked for a ceremony to be inclusive (of all faiths and no faith) so that both the beliefs of their loved one, and everyone attending the funeral, are honoured and respected.
People have different theories about what happens to our life-force when we die and not everyone defines 'God' in the same way - many people define God as a loving presence that they have their own personal connection with either as an experience or an understanding. People most often choose for their prayers to be addressed to God, but as Interfaith Ministers, we always ask what terms and wording would be most fitting (they might address a Higher Power as Divine Presence, Spirit, Universe or something else).
Funerals which are 'part-religious, part-secular' or 'spiritual'
The more funerals I do the more evident it becomes that 'non-religious' in reality is actually 'part religious, part secular' or what some would term 'spiritual' and if more people knew they had that choice - to have a very personal ‘Celebration of Life’ with prayers and reference to an afterlife - this is what they would choose.
One Funeral Director tells me that though more people are asking for a 'non-religious' ceremony, they're rarely non-believers. More often than not they want an alternative to a traditional religious ceremony in a church and the only alternative they're usually aware of is that of the Humanists.
Several people I've spoken to have praised Humanist ceremonies for being so personal and uplifting, but expressed that they felt a bit empty without a prayer to send their loved one on their way - seemingly even if people don't have finite answers about God or an afterlife, they still take great comfort from the possibilities to be spoken out loud.
A very flexible option in every way . . .
We don't have parishes or churches and are willing to work wherever people would have us go - crematoria, Funeral Directors' chapels, halls and hotels, woodland burial sites, beauty spots, front rooms or private gardens (from churches and chapels if granted permission from sympathetic church Ministers).
Every Interfaith Minister is different with a unique style. For myself I’m happy to be as formal or informal as requested. I’m happy to wear stole and robes or not, to introduce myself as a Minister (Reverend) or not, or a Funeral Celebrant or Conductor, or just as someone leading the ceremony.
Though Interfaith Ministers have attended a seminary and have been ordained, we are very different to church Ministers - a more fitting title for us could be The People’s Ministers as we create ceremony for people around their own personal beliefs and faith, whilst being inclusive of their family and community.
Interfaith Ministers expand the term Interfaith . . .
We expand the term Interfaith beyond its most common usage of referring to dialogue and worship between people of different religions, to include ministering to the whole of humanity regardless of faith or no faith.
Our use of the term Interfaith isn't meant to be in competition with more traditional Interfaith concepts or traditional religion, rather we seek to offer an additional choice of ceremony to promote respect, fellowship and peace between fellow humans.
In the context of funerals the term Interfaith indicates we’d respond to anyone's needs, to help them have the most fitting and meaningful final send off for their loved one.
Respecting people's personal beliefs and needs . . .
An Interfaith ceremony could be a non-traditional religious ceremony or a secular ceremony and any variation in between. The ceremonies we create are always in response to our clients' needs, whatever those needs are.
Whether a family would like a funeral that is short and simple with just me talking, or elaborate taking all day with a memorial slideshow and readings, poems and remembering, music and food and drink, and lots of involvement from everyone - what's important to me, is that I can respond unrestricted to each family's unique needs, rather than tell those who approach me what they can or can't have.
Interfaith in context with Religious funerals
A ceremony held by an Interfaith Minister wouldn't have a set structure or any set wording. We would include religious elements if wanted, with the greatest respect for the religion, but the main body of the ceremony would usually be very personal remembering the loved one, rather than focussed on any particular religion. Very often a bereaved family have wanted their loved one's birth tradition mentioned and honoured, but they haven’t wanted the whole ceremony based around that one religion.
We've been able to help when the deceased's beliefs were from more than one religious or spiritual tradition so the family wanted several elements from different faiths in their ceremony which meant they were restricted as to where they could have the ceremony or by what a Religious Minister or leader was prepared to include.
Funeral Directors know that sometimes bereaved families feel uncomfortable approaching the Minister of the local church to hold the funeral of their loved one, when they never normally set foot in a church. We have every sympathy for the families unaware of all of their choices, who would probably choose an Interfaith ceremony if they knew of the option; and every sympathy for church Ministers being called on not through choice or a connection with the faith they represent, but through necessity. We very much hope that what we offer can be helpful both to bereaved families and also to local clergy.
Interfaith in context with Humanist funerals
Because we offer something different and outside the church we're often mistaken for Humanist Celebrants.
I met a Humanist Celebrant at a wedding fayre who shared a story from when he'd responded to a request for a funeral from a friend whose husband had died. He travelled many miles, sat down with his friend to set about making the ceremony preparations, only to be asked for the ceremony to begin with 'The Lord's My Shepherd' - astonished, he said 'but I thought Jimmy was an Atheist, and I thought you were too?' and she proceeded to explain that though that was true, they must have a hymn otherwise what would the local community think?
He said he wished he'd known about us at that point, because he felt, sadly, that he couldn't help her - she was adamant to have the hymn. But this story highlights the fact that there are people who are not Humanists themselves but who opt for a Humanist ceremony not fully understanding there are some restrictions (and other options).
I like to say 'yes' to people's ceremony requests . . .
Like many of my peers (so long as it's not harmful to anyone) I will hold ceremonies wherever, however, and with whatever content people want . . . a coffin painted with the deceased's favourite football team colours? a Jazz band to play? or a recording of favourite disco or heavy metal music as mourners enter?