Father Ed’s protest against being expected to officiate “at cremations where Tina Turner is played as the bodies of people with no hope of resurrection are ‘popped in the oven’” appeared by coincidence in the same day’s papers. Even in Tunbridge Wells, it seems, few people anymore want distinctively Christian funerals, even if they want a vicar presiding, and this one “wondered why he bothered as mourners listen to ear-splitting songs and bad poetry during cremations.” In the next day’s Telegraph, Liz Hunt begged to differ, saying she had once felt as the Rev. Tomlinson did but was converted by going to a service for a friend who had died prematurely and being more impressed by the playing of Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All the Time in the World,” and “What a Wonderful World” than by the hymns.
If someone had warned me beforehand. I’d have dismissed it as a corny and sentimental denouement to a life. I found the reality very different; the words and music, which Tim, an artist and musician, had loved, were a poignant reminder of his warmth, humour, and passion for life. The last song in particular was blessedly comforting to his wife, daughter and son, conveying the message that his life, although cut short, had been a good one.Could the difference between her previous feelings and the new ones, I wonder, really be one of the difference between public and private? The examples of pop music at funerals that she didn’t like were the U2 number played at the funeral of two murdered girls much in the news and Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” at the funeral of Princess Diana, which suggests that it is the presence of strangers at a funeral which heightens the need for the dignity and distance of public music. Popular music is essentially private and intimate because it deals with private and intimate feelings. The liturgy that we tradition-minded “nostalgists” value was designed precisely to make a public and universal response to a private and intense feeling, namely that of grief. In a way, it is a symbol to the survivors of the resurrection, when God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. The real nostalgists are those who shun the liturgy for the warm feelings associated with “What a Wonderful World.”
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