A grave mistake?

I comment on this story very cautiously, but it’s something that has quite unsettled me, and I’d like to share it with you readers if I may. Last week, as usual, the Walsall Advertiser dropped onto the doormat and I read it with my usual interest. The paper – the stronger of the two remaining freesheets delivered in Walsall – led with an emotive story about Brownhills’ parish church, St James. It seems that ornaments and other effects left on memorials have been removed due to them being in contravention of Dioscesean regulations (.PDF file, Adobe reader required). The story can be perused online here.

Now, the Walsall Advertiser isn’t generally noted as a reactionary publication, and I’m inclined to take the facts it presents at face value. What concerns me here are not the regulations, but the apparently insensitive manner in which they’ve suddenly and summarily been applied. I’ve no doubt that signs stating the rules have been visible for a long time, but if the ‘problem’ was growing over a period of two years, as Reverend Bishop states, then perhaps the ideal time to deal with the contraventions would have been when they first started to occur. Memorials are intensely private things, and people will leave keepsakes and ornaments if they feel it’s acceptable to do so. I feel that perhaps a quiet word earlier could have prevented the obvious hurt and distress that resulted from what appears to be a rather callous, sudden enforcement of the policy concerned. I also fail to understand why it would not have been possible to post a notice some weeks prior to the clearance taking place, stating the intention to enforce, thus giving mourners the chance to remove tokens and discuss the situation with the Reverend.

The removed ornaments - picture from the Walsall Advertiser article.

The removed ornaments - picture from the Walsall Advertiser article.

I also find it hard to understand the reasoning driving those who would voluntarily undertake such a clearance and apparently dump the items removed in a corner, like so much rubbish. I note from the accompanying pictures that among the discarded miscellany, there appear to be a number of crucifixes. It seems an oddly disrespectful manner in which to treat the symbol of one’s religion; surely a more ordered and considerate accommodation could have been reached.

I’m not a religious man, and have no friends or relations in that particular cemetery. Whilst I consider myself an atheist, I love churches and their architecture, and understand the need for a tidy, respectful place of remembrance. I fully appreciate that sometimes, regulations can be pushed too far and corrective action needs to be taken; but I cannot escape the basic irony of a situation that results from an institution which provides such comfort in parishioners’ darkest  hours, choosing to enforce it’s rules in such an apparently insensitive manner. Surely, such a beacon of humanity should be more considerate than this?

If you think I’m wrong, or have anything to add, please feel free to contribute.

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7 Responses to A grave mistake?

  1. Marco says:

    I totally agree. It is the manner with which this has been dealt with rather than the regs. In a previous life (excuse the unintended pun) I had to intruduce regs to curtail the number, type and positioning of ornaments for practical and even safety reasons and we went to great length to communicate this. It still caused some upset, understandibly, but it was all managed as sensitively as one could, and rightly so.

  2. Fat Prophet says:

    I was very sad to read this story and see how yet again the church seems to have got it totally wrong. I would have hoped that the church would have records of all the graves and details of ownership, next of kin of deceased who could have been written to prior to this happening.
    It is extremely unfortunate that people who are mourning the loss of a loved one and it could be assumed are looking after the grave if they are putting ornaments on it, could not be consulted by the church authorities.
    While I appreciate there are regulations in respect of graveyards one would have hoped they would be applied with a little more care and consideration than appears to be the case here.

    On a slightly different note I thought it could be interesting if the vicar ever becomes a bishop – you would have to call him Bishop Bishop.

  3. stymaster says:

    I have to say, my first reaction was (and you’ll have to forgive me for being insensitive here- I’m not religious either, and I don’t do grave visiting etc- I don’t see the point) “Great. They’ve cleared all the tacky tat off the gravestones”.

    Then I saw how it had been dumped.

    I might not care for it or about it, but some people clearly cared enough to want to do it, so to pick it up and dump it, flytipper-style, doesn’t seem like a very considerate thing to do.

    The regulations should be enforced, and the church & graveyard should be tidy, but there’s ways and means.

    If the relatives could not be written to, given that the situation has grown over some time, how about a large, prominent reminder notice?

  4. Chill says:

    I too believe that the action taken has been incredibly insensitive. Maybe there was consultation, but nevertheless the removal and dumping of the items in the way it was done is unacceptable. I believe an apology is due to every single person who has been affected by this action. The vicar in particular should feel ashamed.

  5. The Forrener says:

    This is the arrogance of the church at its most petty.

    Seems the religious life generates as many jobsworths as political life…

    The Forrener

  6. Pedro says:

    Seems very insensitive, and it is unsettling to think that, for religious members of this Parish, they may turn to these people for spiritual guidance.

    As an aside to this, I was once on a guided tour on the Greek Island of Skiathos and visited a cemetery absolutely full of all sorts of memorabilia. I told the guide that in England, if anything was of use, it would be removed as soon as your back was turned!

    Regards Pedro

  7. Pingback: No Eden, no respect. « BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

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