I know, from conversations that I've had, that for some people the idea of a Christian minister doing non-religious funerals is at best confusing, at worst dishonouring to God. But just because God doesn't get mentioned during the service, and that's not always the case, it doesn't mean that he's not involved or taking the opportunity to catch up on a bit of paperwork because he isn't needed for this one.
If we believe that God is ever present, then non-religious doesn't have to equate to being without faith. One might not pray out loud during the funeral, one might not read the bible or preach a short sermon, but God will be there, of that i am sure.
Today I'm off to do funerals number 28 and 29 of the year so far. Some of them have been non-religious, one of today's falls into that category. But what I have noticed is that non-religious doesn't necessarily mean non-spiritual, or even non-faith. In conversation with the family, non-religious often turns out to be a preconception of overly religious language and style of presentation rather than specific content. I can only remember one funeral in the last year or so, the time during which I've been doing non-religious funerals, where I was expressly told that God was not to be mentioned at all.
So I will continue to do my duties, to serve God and families through this ministry, religious or not. Over the past 20 years I've learnt a lot about doing a funeral. I've learnt about being adaptable, about listening to families and helping them shape the life-celebration funeral they want. I never feel the need to impose prayers or readings on them, but rest in the knowledge that God is ever-present and my role is to partner with him in his mission to these hurting friends and relatives.
Some, I'm sure, will continue to raise issues and even criticise my approach, but that's okay. As far as I'm concerned, God has granted me a rare and special privilege for a season. How long it will continue I do not know. But what is interesting is that it is far more challenging to work out how to share some element of faith when you can't simply follow the script of the service book to do it.