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Mar 3 2005
Wanted: Funeral Organisers With the Humanist Touch

Wanted: funeral organisers with the Humanist touch

ALAN MacDERMID March 02 2005

Copyright 2005 Newsquest (Herald & Times) Limited. All Rights Reserved

YOU can do it at the nineteenth hole, crack jokes, play jazz or rock 'n' roll but whatever you do, don't mention God.

Non-religious equivalents of christenings, weddings, and funerals are booming in popularity, and the Humanist Society of Scotland yesterday appealed for more volunteers to carry them out.

The organisation said it was struggling to cope with demand for its events, which avoid references to God or religion. Last year, more than 1500 humanist funerals were performed in Scotland. The secular ceremonies are also becoming more high-profile as celebrities, such as Bob Monkhouse, the late comic, turn to them for a personalised, low-key farewell.

Ivan Middleton, society secretary, said: "Increasingly people instruct their solicitors that they want a humanist ceremony when they die. I think the idea is catching on, because the message is getting through that you can have a dignified, structured, personal and meaningful ceremony without bringing religion into it.

"We also give the religious members of the congregations the opportunity for prayer and allow the others to reflect on the life of the person who has died."

Humanist funerals are growing in popularity across the world. A typical ceremony is similar to one conducted by a priest or minister, but can take place anywhere suitable for a gathering a crematorium, a hotel, or sports club.

Mr Middleton added: "We have music, although not religious music usually classical music or pop songs. One man asked for the Dam Busters' March to be played during the committal. He had been in the paratroopers and I think he thought it might lift everyone's spirits a bit.

"It can be good to have a bit of humour in the service, especially if it had been important to that person. People want to remember the good times."

Ceremony co-ordinators, or celebrants, are most needed in Dundee, Angus, Dumfries and Galloway, Fort William, and Oban. Successful applicants will take a training course in writing and conducting ceremonies, and will be able to shadow more experienced funeral workers before taking up their post, which offers travel expenses.

There are about 38 officiators for humanist funerals around Scotland, with some doing as many as four ceremonies a week.

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