THE number of people asking for non-religious humanist funerals has soared by 72 per cent according to West Midlands Co-op, the largest funeral director in the region.
The society's funeral division has experienced rapid growth in people taking the option of a secular ceremony over the past year, with figures already totalling 115 so far in 2003.
Simon Fisher, Funeral Controller for West Midlands Co-op, said: `Many families have been left with instructions by the deceased to arrange a non-religious funeral service, while others feel that a non-religious service is more appropriate.
`Either way, the number of people who take this option when planning a funeral has significantly increased and continues to rise.
While the vast majority of our funerals continue to be religious services, there has been a rapid rise in requests for the humanist format.`
The increase in demand has created a need to support Dave Webster, the society's non-religious officiant, with two other members of West Midlands Co-op staff.
Vicki Manwaring, from Halesowen, and Sue Hunt, from Willenhall, have both been trained to deliver secular services as the team grows to take on the extra numbers of funerals.
Simon added: `We are the only Co-operative funeral service to have a dedicated non-religious officiant, which has now expanded to include two assistants.
`The feedback from families at these services has been excellent. We are expecting to conduct over 170 services of this type in the 12 months up to September 2003.`