A recent funeral service in a pub in Great Britain went so well that the Baptist minister who conducted it “wouldn’t hesitate” to use similar premises again.
Rev. Neal Smith thought of using a local hostelry because his church, Colchester Road Baptist in Ipswich, is in the middle of a major redevelopment.
The family members in question were not regular churchgoers, and Smith didn’t think the crematorium chapel was appropriate for them. “It’s like something off The Munsters, and this group is totally unchurched. Why do we want to drag them to a place like that?” he said.
“I thought it was far better to do it in a place they were familiar and comfortable with.”
And so with the agreement of the landlord and family, Smith took a full funeral service, complete with coffin, to the local pub.
The funeral directors said it was a first for the town. More than 200 people crammed into the pub and listened intently to the gospel, Smith said.
“I couldn’t believe the reverential atmosphere,” he told The Baptist Times. “People are interested in the gospel; what they’re not interested in is the trappings of a church building and service, particularly if they haven’t been in one for years.
“I preached on Ecclesiastes – ‘There’s a time to…’ – straight down the middle. I had more license to do what I normally would, and they really listened. It in no way limited my ability to preach Christ into the situation,” Smith said.
The funeral in the pub led to many more conversations and positive responses than Smith said he would normally have in a church.
“That’s why, with a nonchurch family, I wouldn’t hesitate to offer a pub in the future, even when our building is ready. We need to bring people into a relevant building.”
Smith is well known among the nonchurch community, partly through his buying and selling of cars as well as his membership to a gun club. The invitation to conduct the funeral came about through the latter.
“It was a privilege to be asked, and I love it when people come up say, ‘I didn’t know vicars could be normal.'”
This article appeared originally in The Baptist Times of Great Britain.