Letter: Exchanging old rituals for new

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Sir: Given time, clergy devote much care and thought in constructing funeral services but the task becomes more difficult as numbers increase (Letters, 1 August). The more the numbers of requests for non-religious funerals multiply, the more difficult it will become for their conductors, too, to avoid falling back upon routines.

Clergy generally have a regular two or three funerals to conduct each week, round the year (just do the arithmetic). Remaining fresh under such a sustained demand and providing continuing support after the funeral (where it is asked for) as the numbers accumulate, stretches personal resources. If demands upon them increase, non-religious conductors, too, will scarcely avoid a similar trial.

Clergy spend much time before a funeral sounding out what rituals mourners in all their variety have already in mind and are going to be relying on, so as to be able to supply them. The more common non-religious funerals should become, the more one would expect to see patterns of words and actions emerging - fresh, maybe, conceivably totally non-traditional - but these would, in effect, be new rituals. Indeed, anthologies of "non- ritualistic" ideas for funerals are already published (and very helpful some of them are) but what are these but new rituals in the process of formation?

The Rev MICHAEL ATKINSON

Ilkley, West Yorkshire

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