Joe McMahon sent me this link to a UK op-ed on funeral songs. From the Daily Mail, Tom Utley reports and comments:
A survey this week by Co-op Funeralcare highlights one of the most profound social changes of my lifetime.
In my book, it is also one of the saddest. This is the finding that, for the first time ever, the list of the top ten songs most often requested at funerals contains not a single traditional hymn.
Not even a religious song, even:
1. My Way, Frank Sinatra
2. Time To Say Goodbye, Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman
3. Over The Rainbow, Eva Cassidy
4. Wind Beneath My Wings, Bette Middler
5. Angels, Robbie Williams
6. Supermarket Flowers, Ed Sheeran
7. Unforgettable, Nat King Cole
8. You Raise Me Up, Westlife
9. We’ll Meet Again, Vera Lynn
10. Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, Eric Idle, from Life of Brian film
Monty Python, somewhat of a surprise here, even at #10. It would seem that few church musicians would be prepared for any of these, so I’m betting that given the artist list, these are recordings for a funeral home service being listed here. #1 suggests a consumer model has taken hold in Britain, and out the window is a notion of ministry. Still, there nothing inherently religious about caskets, cemeteries, cremation, that couldn’t be done by non-believers of any sort. It seems simple enough: people don’t want religion at the death if they don’t have it in life.
More from Mr Utley, a self-confessed skeptic on matters of belief:
Yes, I’m an agnostic who finds faith very hard to achieve. But if my widow and sons comply with my wishes, as I’m sure they will, I’ll be far from the first on/off believer to be given a Christian send-off.
As for my choice of hymns for the service, these vary as often as my selections for Desert Island Discs — and I reserve the right to repeatedly change my mind.
But the strongest contenders, for the minute at least, are Lord Of All Hopefulness; Jesus, Lover Of My Soul; and, as a rousing finale, For All The Saints Who From Their Labours Rest.
#1 on that list, I wouldn’t mind. #3 hasn’t ever occurred to me, but I suppose some naysayer might object to the association of resting from labor among agnostics and saints.
It occurs to me the mewling from Real Church Music quarters for contemporary settings of Psalm 91, say, is really way off the beaten path these days. If you can’t budge an agnostic from “My Way,” who will listen and not scratch their head when objections to the Minnesota Three or the SLJ’s are raised.
Speaking for myself, I’m leaving most of my funeral arrangements in my survivor’s hands. I may have a few favorites for liturgical songs, but I expect the repertoire will be irrelevant to any but the earthbound when I die.