Saturday, July 18, 2009

How to Do a Unitarian Funeral???

Unless a miracle happens, I will be officiating my third funeral (EVER) sometime in the next few weeks. My grandmother, who is 92, is dying and (according to my cousin who is a critical care nurse and keeps track of her condition) most likely has only days left to live. Nani (as I call her) asked me years ago to do her funeral. The rest of the family is totally OK with this. I know that Nani has picked out the music she wants, but nothing else has been planned. It's up to me and my Aunt Kate.

Normally, I'd be able to plan the service with no problems whatsoever. However, my grandmother is Unitarian, as is her companion (Piet) and my Aunt Kate. With the exception of my mother, everyone else in my mom's family is essentially a secular humanist with a little bit of generic spirituality thrown in for good measure. Feelings toward faithful Christians (like me and my mom) range from tolerance to suspicion. Both my mom and I get the sense that everyone thinks that we're to the right of Jerry Falwell, Jr. Which we're not, by the way. By any means. In fact, I really have a distaste for the sort of theology and practice that Rev. Falwell advocates. He probably would think that I'm a bleeding liberal, since I'm a woman in ministry AND I've been heard to affirm the gifts of an "open and out" homosexual.

The bottom line is, this service needs to be spiritual, but still be fairly secular. How do I plan that sort of service while still maintaining my own integrity as Christian clergy? I would love suggestions on readings, prayers/meditations, and the like. They can be from any tradition or be totally secular. She wants it to be a short service (which I take to mean 30-45 minutes, tops). I want it to be a celebration of her life, but I also want to keep my integrity, honor her memory, and piss off as few family members as possible.


Songbird said...

So do they not believe in God? Because most of the Unitarians I know do believe in God, just don't experience God in a Trinitarian expression. Seems to me you could be okay using an appropriate Psalm and perhaps a poem instead of a gospel reading.
I haven't done a non-Christian funeral, but I have done a wedding for a dear friend and prayed at ecumenical events where I felt invoking Jesus would be exclusionary to faithful Jews in attendance. If we believe in one God, seems like it should be okay to form a service around that belief, if it reflects your grandmother's understanding.
Anyway, I'm sorry that she is at the end and know that must come with lots of feelings for you.

mompriest said...

I did a funeral service for a lapsed Roman Catholic who had a Native American Spirituality. Curiously enough his wife wanted to hold the service in the church. So we choose a liturgy based on the Burial office from the New Zealand Prayerbook (Anglican) and then I rewrote all of the Trinitarian references to language like, "Holy One". We used some scripture (not sure what she choose) but also a lot of prayers from Native American tradition. That way the service held the structure of the burial office for our church BUT was theologically grounded in the spirituality of the deceased. This is something like what SB is suggesting above but with a bit more structure (being Episcopal our structure of worship is important).

Anyway, blessings to you on this. And prayers for you and your family as this beloved family member is birthed into her new life.

Anonymous said...

have you tried asking Peacebang??... she's a UU clergy blogger, and seems to be a really helpful voice for the balancing act that you're describing.