Since cremation is now becoming more common questions are being raised about its relationship to Christian faith. Cremation was the custom in the Roman society of the first century but by the third century earth burial had replaced cremation as the usual custom. The Jewish custom was to bury immediately because of decomposition in a hot climate. This is what happened to Jesus.
As cemeteries and church graveyard have filled up, and families have moved, cremation has become convenient. Nevertheless the symbolism of the cremated remains representing the body needs to be observed. A good test of what is done with the cremated remains is to ask if there is any parallel with what we would sense as proper to do with a body.
I am committed to providing a permanent place with a marker. Graveyards have preserved our sense of family history. Just as emails have threatened the preservation of correspondence through which we have learned so much, I fear that a casual attitude to the cremated remains without a physical record of their interment will threaten the value of our legacy.
Amelia Plantation Chapel, along with many churches today, provide alternatives to graveyards in a Columbarium and a Memorial Garden. To help the survivors of those who contract to use them I have prepared the following guidelines.
The Chapel provides a resting place for the bodily remains of members of our congregation and their immediate family who profess belief in the resurrection of the body through Jesus Christ. Death to us is falling asleep in Jesus (1 Thess. 4:13,14).
By reserving a niche the Reserver acknowledges the need to treat their remains in the same exact way that a family would treat a body in a casket.
Since the human body, through Creation and the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, has eternal destiny in any form, the remains should be handled with dignity through its interment in the urn provided or directly into the ground. Cremated remains of a loved one should not be scattered, kept at home or divided into other vessels among family members or commingled with others, just as it is clear that these practices would desecrate a body in a casket.
These guidelines are based on our belief in eternal life – both body and soul –in Jesus Christ among the Communion of Saints (1 Corinthians 15:51-54).