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Corrie soap death is a boost for humanism

FL; Christine Riley-Moger, who conducts humanist funerals weddings and namings.

FL; Christine Riley-Moger, who conducts humanist funerals weddings and namings.

On Friday evening, as the nation said a tearful goodbye to one of Coronation Street’s best-loved characters, Christine Riley Moger tuned in to the popular soap for the first time in her life.

She has never been a fan, but there was something about Hayley Cropper’s funeral that made it compulsive viewing.

Cancer victim Hayley, whose heart-rending storyline ended when she took her own life, had a humanist ceremony rather than a religious service.

And conducting humanist funerals is part of Christine’s real-life role.

She also does weddings and namings for people who want to mark the milestones in their lives with a completely individual, non-religious celebration.

“I think featuring a humanist funeral on Coronation Street was an excellent idea,” she says.

“Lots of people who aren’t religious wouldn’t want a church service, but have no idea what else is available.”

Great-grandmother Christine, from Stoke by Clare, has been a humanist celebrant for more than 10 years.

There is no set format for any of the ceremonies. She plans and writes each one after talking to those involved, and always meets bereaved families to make sure the funeral will do justice to their loved one.

“We’re all unique and lead such different lives. It’s only right a funeral should reflect this,” she says.

“Most of those I do are at crematoriums. Some have been at green burial sites, in village halls, or outside in a garden.

“But I did one in the back room of a pub with the coffin on a trestle ... it was his local and he had spent happy times there.”

Sometimes the emotion of the occasion leaves her choking back tears. One in particular was hard to bear.

“I wept when I did my first funeral for a stillborn child because I lost a baby at two days old when I was in my 20s. I couldn’t even go to the funeral because I was in hospital.

“I just got choked up. I apologised to the parents, but they said thank you for crying. Months later the mother turned up at my front door with a huge bouquet and said, I’ve been meaning to do this for ages.

Chrisine sometimes faces bizarre misundertandings of what a humanist is.

“I’ve known people confuse us with humourists and ask if I’ll be telling jokes, and others expect me to be a pagan or some kind of druid. I’ve been asked, will you be wearing a cloak and a pointy hat?”

What she actually wears when working is a smart suit or summer dress, nothing too flamboyant, and definitely no hat at weddings. “I mustn’t look as if I’m competing with the bride’s mother!”

Christine and her journalist husband John, who died last year, joined the British Humanist Association when they came back to England after living in France. “We had looked at their pamphlets in the past and always said this interesting, this is what we think too,” she says.

“I was brought up to go to church, then I started thinking for myself. I believe we can all live good lives without a god.

“We have one life we can be sure of, and we should make it as good as we can for ourselves and others.

“Some years after we joined the association I found they needed celebrants in our area. I had retired for the third time and needed something to do, so I phoned and got an interview, then went off and did the training.”

Christine, who spent 30 years in nursing before going on to do counselling and remedial massage, was soon beginning her fourth career.

“I remember my first wedding. I was terrified but didn’t let on it was my first one, and it worked well.”

“One of the best weddings I’ve done was held in a wood. It poured with rain for days before and the bride and bridesmaids arrived wearing beautiful dresses, and wellies.”

Humanist marriages have no legal status in England, unlike Scotland, so couples make civil vows as well.

Naming ceremonies are her favourites. “They are the happiest, a lovely way to welcome a child into the family. It can be especially valuable when children are adopted.”

But the one that has a special place in her heart was the naming of her great-grandson Wilfred, known as Wilf, who is now almost two years old.

“It was wonderful but I did find it quite frightening, performing for the first time in front of my own family,”

Religion plays no part in Christine’s life, but that did not stop her joining a choir that often performs religious works. “Singing is a lot of fun and there is some wonderful church music,” she says.

For more information phone Christine on 01787 279369, or visit humanism.org.uk.

 

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