Funeral Service – Celebrant, Minister or Humanist?

A common misconception is that funerals must be led by a Minister of Religion (representing a faith community) or a Humanist (expressing a non-religious world view).

Ministers of Religion are bound by religious statutes and often feel duty-bound to proclaim their unique message of faith as part of the funeral service. Sometimes a Humanist can be put in an embarrassing position when asked to include a prayer, a hymn, or some reference to a loved one going to a better place, i.e., connection to a life after death. And sometimes it feels appropriate to do so, without wanting an overtly religious service. 

This has led to a growing frustration amongst many in the UK who prefer to celebrate the life of a family member or friend.

Over the past ten years, Celebrants have been an increasingly popular choice because the clue, of course, is in the title; celebrants are trained non-clergy professionals who help families celebrate the life of the person who has died. 

A Celebrant

Steve Game-Blackmoor funeral celebrant

Celebrancy is an area of expertise not bound by any religious dogma or registrar legalise. Celebrants are usually members of a professional organisation, like the AOIC, Association of Independent Celebrants, or IOCF, Institute of Civil Funerals. 

  • They officiate funeral ceremonies and sensitively deliver something incredibly unique, reflecting the personality and beliefs of the family and person who has died. 
  • They will include as much or as little religion as you deem relevant, or indeed, no religion at all. Celebrancy is representative of the person who has died and of the people who grieve.  

They train to an exceedingly high standard, with continued professional development and a program of personal reading and reflection. 

Steve is an Independent Funeral Celebrant and a member of the AOIC. He is a Grief Specialist, and his work is moderated by Holding Dear Support Service and the ACCPH, and Steve has been nominated for the award of Overall Global Celebrant of the Year for 2021.

A Minister of Religion

When you’re a member of a faith community, it is natural to want to use your local minister or religious leader. They will work with you to create a service.

Closeup of the neck of a priest wearing a black shirt with cassock and white clerical collar

For your information:

  • Anyone in the UK is entitled to a Church of England funeral.
  • A minister-led service will typically look back on the life of the person who has died and include prayers and religious content. 
  • The minister will work with you to tailor the service as much as possible.

Some religious organisations set different educational standards for ministers. Many Christian churches require clergy to hold a Degree in Applied Theology or a Divinity degree, but all will undergo a period of suitable preparation and ministerial formation.

A Humanist

Humanists are members of Humanist UK – a charity that promotes humanism, who hold a non-religious, naturalistic view of the universe. Humanists believe that there is one world, and we have one life, and death is simply a part of nature and as natural as life itself.

  • Like celebrants, they will work with you to create a service that is all about the person who had died. They work in similar ways; the only difference is that humanists will not refer to the afterlife or religion at all.
  • Humanists will be appropriately trained and work closely to a strict code of practice. Find out more at

There is of course a fourth option, and that is to organise a family-led ceremony. There are no rules as to how we must say farewell to a family member or friend, but if you would like to learn more about Steve and the celebrant services he provides, why not contact him today for an informal chat.

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