Room for every hope!

12 Dec

BBC World Radio surprised me with a call today, inviting me to take part in a broadcast debate on the “Tina Turner -esque funeral” trend in Britain. I learned from the journalist thatan uproar had been stimulated by an Anglican vicar (Revd. Fr. Edward Tomlinson SSC of Saint Barnabas Church) speaking frankly about the – in his view – spiritual emptiness and superficiality of secular funerals.

Given that Perpetua’s Garden is clearly not yet a mainstream initiative (may it one day become the new mainstream!), the journalist presumed I might like to argue the alternative view – he still needed to suss out someone for the “traditionalist” side. Flattered though I am, I will decline – if he even calls back after I told him that Perpetua’s Garden was more about the place (a new kind of cemetery) than what happens there (the funeral rituals).

In fact, I categorically take no sides when it comes to how each person deals with death or wants to celebrate it. Father Ed has his beliefs, as those commenting on his blog have theirs. Fair is fair – as beliefs each is valid. But I am not a vicar, or an atheist, or a humanist – I am simply someone trying to provide a better alternative for EVERYONE, regardless of belief.

Yes, Perpetua’s Garden is hoping to develop a better alternative than the funeral industry (which is every bit as superficial and spiritually empty as Father Ed presents secular funerals to be.) But it has no intention of substituting the spiritual function of the church – rather it will have room to integrate the church’s practises and beliefs, along with those of all other beliefs or non-beliefs. That is, there will be room for every hope, room for every denomination or individual to celebrate their beliefs about life and death – the traditionally religious, the “free-thinkers”, new-agers, environmentalists, atheists, whoever, however.

Whatever my own personal beliefs may be, ABSOLUTE freedom must be allowed to every other person’s faith. Freedom to believe in this, or that, or even specifically in Nothing. If the state of Death has any reality, then it is by default a spiritual one – beyond a decaying body or some cremated remains, it certainly has no material reality. And as as a spiritual matter, let no-one dictate to anyone else what is right and wrong here. We can express and live our beliefs with regard to death, but we must not dictate or impose them on others – people understandably object violently to such efforts. (And anyway, imposed spirituality is quite meaningless – belief is there or it isn’t, full stop.)

In conclusion, it seems fair that Father Ed is reluctant or sees no meaning to secular motifs being aired in his specifically religious place. Perpetua’s Garden on the other hand allows absolute freedom of belief – it does not presume to judge who is closer to the truth and who is therefore allowed entry or not. It will provide space for each to practise in their way.

In Death we are all equal – “ROOM FOR EVERY HOPE” is thus the first and most fundamental premise of Perpetua’s Garden.


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