One caller on the Inspirational Breakfast programme on Thursday branded the service in Kent “an absolute outrage” while another said it showed “more compromise, than compassion”.
The Rev Ravi Holy (pictured below, left) said he was more than happy to host the service in the United Wye Benefice, adding it was “one of the most poignant, valid and missional” funerals he had ever taken.
He went on to say: “I felt, as a Christian minister, that my duty was to meet these people (grieving relatives) where they were and to do anything that was in my power to help them in their hour of need.”
Rev Holy agreed to hold the funeral in memory of a personal friend who had died from a brain tumour aged 60, just months after being diagnosed with the cancer.
Concerned the local crematorium would not have enough room for everyone who wanted to attend the funeral, relatives discussed with Rev Holy the idea of having a service at his church solely for logistical reasons.
Rev Holy said he agreed that the funeral would feature no Bible readings, hymns or prayers. He also offered to wear a normal suit, instead of his dog collar.
He said the service was an opportunity to mirror God’s unconditional love, adding that the family would have gone elsewhere had he not made such a particular effort.
Comparing the funeral to regular Church of England services for non-believers, Rev Holy added: “This was not really that different.
“If anything, it had slightly more integrity because the people involved had thought through what they did want and what they didn’t. They had been completely honest about that and we all knew where we stood.”
The funeral, which took place around two years ago, came to light after Rev Holy spoke on a Holy Smoke podcast published by The Spectator magazine this week.
Click here to listen to Premier’s Alex Williams speaking with Rev Holy:
Click here to listen to callers on Premier’s Inspirational Breakfast share their views:
A Church of England vicar has defended his decision to hold an atheist funeral after the move prompted strong criticism from Premier listeners.