More than one-third of people who need end-of-life services choose cremation in the state of Pennsylvania. According to the Cremation Association of North America, the rate is increasing. By 2016, nearly half of all deceased individuals in Pennsylvania will be cremated.

Factors contributing to the increase in cremation include cost, environmental impact, and geographic trends that show people moving away from their hometowns. Another important factor is the growing acceptance of cremation among Western churches. While cremation has been the favored end-of-life service for Buddhists and those of other Eastern faiths, Western churches have only recently accepted the practice. While Catholics have rules surrounding the practice of cremation, i.e. that you must have both a funeral and burial in tandem with cremation, Protestant churches have more quickly embraced the trend.

In Philadelphia, several churches have anticipated the growing popularity of cremation and created structures to accommodate cremated remains. Downington’s Hopewell United Methodist Church constructed a memorial garden and two columbaria and has four more structures in the works. At The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr, the number of cremations is three times the number of traditional burials, which prompted the creation of two new columbaria to house the remains. At Paoli Presbyterian Church, people are racing to reserve space for their cremated remains in the church’s memorial brick wall. Approximately 100 people have already reserved space.

Why have memorial structures become so popular? A collective grave – either in a scattering garden or in a 96-urn columbarium – brings comforting thoughts to many families. While a single burial plot often seems like a lonely resting place, cremation burial spaces highlight the close connections among a churchgoing community, giving patrons a shared space to reflect, remember, and connect with one another.

For those have chosen cremation and are religiously inclined, seeing their church’s acceptance of cremation is reassuring. For others, questions about cremation bring up conflicting emotions. Those considering cremation over traditional burial are wise to consult with clergy at their place of worship regarding the practice of cremation, and create a cremation plan ahead of time to relieve family members from the burden of having to make important decisions based on religious preference.

Whether you choose traditional burial or cremation, John P. Donohue Funeral Home works with you and your family to create and end-of-life plan that serves your needs. To talk to someone who can answer your questions about Philadelphia cremations and burials, call us today: 610.400.3015.