My friend, Kyle Matthews, was showing me around the beautiful facilities of the First Baptist Church of Greenville, S.C., just before Christmas. When we came up on this columbarium, I snapped a quick photo.

Driving away it dawned on me that this was the third Baptist church where I had seen such a burial place for those who have been cremated. The other two were Calvary Baptist Church in Denver and River Road Church, Baptist in Richmond.

While churches and cemeteries have long relationships, there is a growing trend to leave this world in a different way than traditional casket burial. Proponents of cremation cite various benefits like being less expensive and more environmentally friendly.

Certainly it will take time for many to get use to another approach to burial, but the shift is apparently on. The Cremation Association of North America (CANA) reported that approximately one-third of deaths in the U.S. in 2005 resulted in cremations.

Their projection for this year is 39 percent and rising to 57 percent in 2025. Several states — with Hawaii at 66 percent — already have more cremations than traditional burials.

Just how this trend will play out — especially in church settings that are often slow to follow cultural shifts — is worth watching. But one could bet more columbariums will be erected by churches in the future than the building of new cemeteries that require significant land and high maintenance.

And it’s not hard to argue that cremation fits well with Christian theology. The biblical revelation tells us “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19 KJV) and “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

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