Sunday, June 28, 2009


I've generally believed that regular attendance at funerals was an expression of black African culture that was just different to my culture. I have been starting to wonder if this is 'harmless'. Partly I'm beginning to wonder whether the culture of funerals has hi-jacked the Christian faith, rather than being simply an inclusive thing.
Now I am wondering about the effect of the content of funerals on people. I would guess that many people do funerals at least two Saturdays out of four. At most of these funerals they will hear Psalm 90 read. (Whereas western people like Psalm 23). How does it affect people to hear 'You turn men back to dust, saying "Return to dust, O sons of men." (vs 3) and "We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation." (vs 7) and "All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan." (vs 9) nearly every week? This is by no means a balanced picture of God, life or death.
I am starting to believe that black African people oppress themselves by their funeral customs.


Steve Hayes said...

A couple of observations:

1. Funeral customs vary from place to place.

2. They change over time, quite rapidly

3. Burial societies are quite influential, and sometikes more so than Christian Churches

But white funeral customs are far more depressing. I can't imagine anything worse than a funeral parlour chapel.

Jenny Hillebrand said...

I know that you've done a lot of research into the African churches and I must admit I know next to nothing about African Pentecostal churches. But I think that you will find that in the Methodist Church the order of service has been the same for ages (it's a translation from the Anglican service book from however many years ago) and that also other denominations use it. I will ask around to check!

Jenny Hillebrand said...

By the way, about white funeral customs. I, for some reason, chose to do a mini dissertation on 'doing funerals in a postmodern society' for my degree. There are lots of good ways of making even a 'white' funeral less depressing:)

Anonymous said...

You paint a bleak picture, but don't be too depressed.

I'm looking forward to seeing you again :D

Steve Hayes said...

I'd love to see your mini-dissertation. Obviously white funeral customs vary as much as black ones, so I'm not quite sure what the norm is.

Black people say to me that certain things are done at funerals because it is "our culture", but then at another funeral quite different things are done, so I wonder just whose culture it is? One thing that seems fairly constant, at least in this neck of the woods, is armchairs at the graveside, which I've never seen at white funerals.