THE UNIVERSITY OF HULL
DIOCESAN TRAINING TEAM
SPIRITUALITY IN CONTEMPORARY
Thursday 31st March 2011
10am to 1pm (Coffee from 9.45am)
at Cherry Burton Church Hall
This half day training event is aimed at clergy at all stages of ministry. The key
findings of a recent research project (see below) will be presented and a
discussion will follow on the implications for practice.
There is no charge for this event but prior booking is essential as places are
limited. Bookings to:
Mrs Jacque Du Preez (Training Team Administrator), ‘Funerals’, Diocesan
House, Aviator Court, Clifton Moor, York, YO30 4WJ
Spirituality in Contemporary UK Funerals – Summary of Research
Margaret Holloway, Sue Adamson, Vassos Argyrou, Peter Draper, Daniel Mariau
(University of Hull)
Research funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council
An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Hull conducted this study of spirituality in
contemporary funerals. Funerals are changing rapidly in contemporary British society but evidence hitherto has
been patchy and largely anecdotal as to the nature of these changes. In our secular society there has been an
emphasis on the grief and needs of the bereaved rather than on rituals associated with the commemorating and
departing of the deceased; personalisation of the ceremony rather than use of traditional liturgies; celebration of
the life rather than the confronting of death. It is not known to what extent these new practices reflect a new
engagement with spirituality and religion, or represent a discarding of both.
The project explored the ways in which bereaved families searched for, found and expressed meaning through
the funeral, and sought evidence of religion and broader spirituality in these processes. Meaning-making is a core
concept in understandings of contemporary spirituality and also in current grief and bereavement theory. The
central research question was whether, and for whom, the meaning-making engaged in by families in this study
could be termed 'spiritual'. The project took place predominantly in the Hull area and was conducted through case
studies of 46 funerals and interviews with 29 'key informants' – celebrants, funeral directors and others.
The research suggests that funerals are significant events in Britain today with families seeing themselves as
active participants. There is significant evidence of personal meaning-making and much of this involves spiritual
and/or religious expression, regardless of the choice of religious or secular celebrant. Despite this, there is little
evidence of adherence to formal belief systems, although particular beliefs about an after-life are widespread.
Funeral directors see themselves as facilitating meaningful choices for the family, celebrants as actively engaged
in helping the families to create meaning. There is much evidence of ritual, including emerging forms and
behaviours and drawing on religious traditions, even in otherwise secular ceremonies.
This research will contribute to the further understanding of contemporary funerals as well as contemporary
spiritualities. It also contributes to our understanding of death in contemporary society.