Funeral arrangers are the people in a funeral director's office who interview clients and make the arrangements. They're the ones who contact us to ask if we'll do a funeral for a client who doesn't want a religious ceremony. At least, that's how it's supposed to work.
We send all the funeral directors in our area a newsletter every year or so, to inform them about our service and remind them what we will or won't do. With staff changes, some need re-educating periodically.
One of our biggest problems is the arrangers who book a venue (such-and-such a crematorium at 11am on Tuesday, say) before they contact us. When it's a fait accompli, there's not much we can do if all of us are already committed elsewhere. There've been times when I've had to tell an arranger, sorry - we can't help you.
Then there are the ones who don't really understand what a humanist funeral is. Their client might have said that they don't want a religious funeral, but they still choose to sing hymns, for example. I've known clients say, "But it's not really religious, is it?" about Abide with Me, Jerusalem, or Morning has Broken. Don't they ever listen to the words? If the arranger is doing his or her job properly, he or she should know better than to steer people like that in our direction. They need a civil celebrant, who's not much fussed about what we call "pick 'n mix" funerals, or one of the many freelance celebrants who'll do the same.
This morning I had an email from an arranger who'd asked me to do a funeral a few days ago. I'd queried whether the client had chosen any music. The email listed four hymns! I spoke to the client on Tuesday. I asked, "You do understand that I provide a funeral that's totally free from religion, don't you? No hymns, prayers, religious readings, or references to an afterlife?" "Yes," he said, "that's what we want. Mum wasn't religious." I haven't been able to get hold of him again today, so far, but what seems to have happened is that the arranger has handed him a list of recorded music and said, "You can choose from this." Not appreciating that they can have anything they want (and I mean anything - the new Wesley system means access to an almost unlimited number of recordings), the client opted for the hymns because he thought that was usual, or didn't have a clue what he wanted.
Meanwhile, I've been backed into a corner by another client, who insists that we sing Jerusalem because her husband loved the song. I can see that this is going to be one of those weeks.