12 November 2016

What a privilege to be invited to dedicate the new crematorium chapel in Barnstaple today. Named the ‘Rowan’ this chapel is modern, spacious and airy, not at all gloomy or gothic. It has been built and funded jointly by North Devon and Torridge District Councils, and is testimony to the strength of community life in north Devon.

According to the latest Government statistics, last year no less than 93,000 people got into debt as a result of their inability to pay the funeral expenses of their deceased relatives and friends. We all want to give our nearest and dearest a good send-off, but few take on board the cost of a funeral today. Funerals that take place in crematoria built and owned by private companies are invariably more expensive than those managed by local authorities. For this reason alone this new venture, funded and built the local councils to serve the local community, is to be applauded.

Alone amongst the animal kingdom we live in the consciousness that one day we will die. What we make of this realisation and how we allow it to shape our priorities is significant, as is the place where we bid farewell to the mortal remains of our loved ones whether in a graveyard or at a crematorium. These places are etched into the memory. They become cairns on the human journey. Bereavement is itself a journey, one from grief to remembering. As a Christian, I believe none of us make that journey alone. The risen Christ walks with us in the valley of the shadow of death.

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