Memorial Gardens and Columbaria
The Cremation Association of North America (CANA) reports that in the past 15 years, the cremation rate in the United States has nearly doubled: from 24.8% in 1999 to 46.7% in 2014. CANA predicts that in 2019, 2 out of 4 Americans will choose cremation for their deceased loved ones. The custom has grown for reasons such as affordability and land management concerns.
Many religions allow the practice of cremation, but it is forbidden in the Eastern Orthodox Church as well as for Muslims. Some degrees of orthodoxy in the Jewish faith do not allow cremation. Other religions, such as Hinduism, actually mandate cremation. For many years, the Catholic Church prohibited cremation, but the Vatican lifted the ban in 1963.
Churches here in Buckhead, as well as across the nation, have embraced this change in memorialization of the dead by setting aside spaces on church property for cremated remains, either through burial in memorial gardens or interment in above-ground columbaria. All are designed to be quiet places to remember those who have died, often decorated with flowers, benches, and plaques memorializing those whose ashes are interred in the garden.
Monsignor Dillon at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in north Buckhead discussed changes in burial practices in a 2013 Georgia Bulletin article: “For centuries it was traditional for churches to have graveyards on church grounds where deceased parishioners could be buried. Over time, however, zoning laws prohibited this practice.” A permit was required to allow on-site burial of cremated remains. Since the construction of its new church in 1995, Holy Spirit has maintained a memorial garden where cremated remains are buried in biodegradable boxes. Over time, the area is recycled. This is a practice similar to other congregations with memorial gardens.
As early as the early 1970s, the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Phillip also wanted to provide a place for the interment of cremated remains. In 1985, it was finally able to set aside a consecrated place on church property; there are 438 plots in its memorial garden designed to be available in perpetuity.
Trinity Presbyterian developed and dedicated a memorial garden in 1994. The memorial garden at Northside United Methodist Church was designed in 1996 by Edward L. Daugherty, FASLA. St. Anne’s Episcopal Church and Northwest Presbyterian also maintain landscaped remembrance gardens in quiet settings on church property.
Peachtree Road United Methodist Church is one of the only religious institutions in Buckhead with an above-ground columbarium courtyard. It contains over 500 niches in which to inter ashes. The congregation often gathers in the columbarium for church services.
Cremation Association of North America website: http://www.cremationassociation.org/?page=IndustryStatistics
Nelson, Andrew. “A final resting place: New practice consoles living.” Georgia Bulletin, Nov. 7, 2013. Accessed online: http://www.georgiabulletin.org/news/2013/11/a-final-resting-place-new-practice-consoles-living/