A.N. Wilson has sharp criticism of the Church of England for getting rid of the old prayer book funeral service. Wilson has been all over the place religiously and here I confess I think he sounds like a bit of a prayer book crank but perhaps there is a kernel truth in some of his criticism of the church:
Yet in the absence of Cranmer’s old funeral service, and with vicars pussy-footing around with its modern replacement, they think they can improve on the traditions of the elders.
So ‘I know that My Redeemer Liveth’ is discarded in favour of My Way and Handel is given the boot by Frank Sinatra. But only because the Church did not offer Handel, or the time-honoured words.
Although My Way and other such examples of liturgical home brew give a Kentish vicar the pip, I am afraid I blame the Church more than I actually blame the people who, with the best of bewildered and often griefstricken intentions, devise these cringe-making events in crematoria and churches.
English-speaking men and women for 400 years had the most beautiful church services in their own language. Our national Church chose, for the stupidest set of non-reasons, to discard the Prayer Book services.
Vicars are not in a very strong position to object if people can think of nothing better to play, as the coffin goes down the chute, than You’ll Never Walk Alone (number nine in popularity).
For most British people, the experience of church-going is limited to weddings and funerals.
If, when they came to church on such an occasion, families were given the dignity of the old words, the old hymns and the old music, might they not derive some of the old strength which consoled our ancestors, and bring back to life some of the old, lost dignity with which human rites of passage were once honoured?