The Anglican Synod [article re. cremation, 21 May 1898]

[Editor: This untitled article about Christianity and cremation was published in The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.), 21 May 1898.]

[The Anglican Synod]

The Anglican Synod of South Australia has taken a lesson from the Pagans of old, and has passed a resolution favouring, on sanitary and economic grounds, the substitution of cremation for the present system of burying the dead, with the shibboleth “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” which, concerning interments as now conducted, has only a far-off application.

Twenty years ago cremation was a term which hardly found a place in current encyclopaedias. To-day columns of print are devoted to it, its advocates are numerous in every community, and societies for its promotion as a generally observed custom are gaining in strength and influence. The Pagans, wise in their generations, like the Hindoos of to-day, believed in crematorium fires as effective beyond compare in cleansing the earth of deadly sources of disease and festering impurities.

People and communities boasting of hyper-Christianity have created and encouraged the belief that cremation is anti-Christian, and that return to a system which only heathens living in outer darkness have chosen would be altogether retrograde and unseemly. The Churches, heretofore, while not condemning, have expressed no approval of cremation, and individuals who, having the courage of their own opinions, have given instructions that when they “shuttle off this mortal coil,” their poor remnants of mortality shall be incinerated, and their ashes scattered to the winds, have been looked upon as scorners of holy things and an abomination to men.

It is meet and good that the Church has at last aroused to its responsibility, and endeavours to remove difficulties perplexing timidly conscientious persons by encouraging them to look at cremation from a common-sense and practical point of view. The action of the Anglican Synod of South Australia should gain approval and speedy response from the Synods of all the other colonies, and not alone from those of the Anglican Church. It is a subject on which all sects may well agree in full and hearty concurrence.

Cremation at present is costly, and must necessarily be so until it is generally adopted in disposing of the dead. Compared, however, with the present cost of funeral fripperies and the mockery of woe which conventional custom entails on bereaved ones, there is no reason that cremation, when it becomes a recognised practice — as it probably will before another decade has passed — should be beyond the means of the humblest mourners. Societies already formed for promoting the system are working in this direction, as the speediest means of popularising the lighting of crematorium fires as beacons of sanitary reform. With the sanction of bishops and other spiritual pastors and masters the movement should progress apace.

The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.), 21 May 1898, p. 2

Editor’s notes:
fripperies = plural of “frippery”: something which is frivolous or showy; unnecessary adornment or decoration

Hindoo = an archaic spelling of “Hindu”: a follower of the religion of Hinduism

meet = (archaic) suitable, fit, or proper; also, something having the proper dimensions, or being made to fit; can also mean mild or gentle
See: James A. H. Murray (editor), A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles: Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by the Philological Society, volume 6, part 2, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1908, p. 304

shibboleth = a custom, tradition, behavior, mode of dress, principle, or belief which distinguishes one group or class of people from another (especially used regarding an old one which is now regarded as outmoded or no longer important; a common or old saying, or a belief, principle, or practice (especially one considered to be important by a group of people) which is now regarded as being old-fashioned, outdated, inappropriate, or wrong; may also refer to a word, choice of phrase, or peculiarity of pronunciation which distinguishes one group of people from another (may be used in common conversation, but which acts a test of belonging; a way or means of signaling affinity or loyalty, to affirm self-identification, or to assist in maintaining social segregation; a password)

[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]

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