Celebrants create personalized funerals for non-religious

Tuesday, June 17th 2008, 4:05 pm
By: News 9

By Audrey Esther, News9.com INsite Team

A poignant funeral can be an important first step in the grieving process. A relatively new profession helps families take that step by creating highly personalized funerals that celebrate their loved one's life.

"Everything has to be about us and everything has to be special," Glenda Stansbury, Dean of the In-Sight Institute, said.

Stansbury said that "everything" also includes funerals. From chaplains to actors, people from all walks of life have received certified funeral celebrant training at the locally based In-Sight Institute. Recently, Oklahoma City was host to an international celebrant conference.

Once trained, celebrants conduct custom-made funerals for loved ones, family members and even strangers.

"It's not your typical, I open the book, I read the same service that I read a few days ago," Stansbury said. "It's a very specialized service that really honors that life in a way that is special and healing to that family."

Stansbury said the use of celebrants in the U.S. is gaining popularity. She said as the number of people who don't identify with a specific theology increases so does the need for celebrants.

"We call them the baby boomers that say they are spiritual but not religious," she said.

Within the last decade the institute has trained more than 1,200 people.

"It's only normal that none of us want to think about our own demise," Smith & Kernke funeral director Joe Kernke said.

Funeral directors like Kernke are typically not trained to do highly personal, specialized funeral services. Within the last few years he said more of his clients have turned to celebrants.

"It really has filled a void for people who are unchurched," Kernke said.

Funeral celebrant training takes about three days.