BBQs in the Graveyard

You may have read a recent report about three adults and seven children holding a BBQ in a West Yorkshire graveyard. Nothing wrong with that, you may think. After all, the early Christians regularly held feasts at the tombs of their dead and, even today, in southern Europe and Latin America it is not uncommon to find people eating and drinking and making merry in cemeteries to mark All Saints/All Souls. However, the couple who spotted the BBQ-ing group were shocked to see that they were using a tombstone for their BBQ. When remonstrated with, one of the men replied in a less than gracious manner. The rest is Social Media history.

Presumably, it was not principally the fact that the BBQ was being held in consecrated ground that gave offence but the use of a particular memorial and the churlish response to the suggestion that doing so was ‘disrespectful’. (There is no hint that the tombstone belonged to a family member of either the BBQ-ers or the complainers.) It is a clear case of two different standards of behaviour clashing. On the one side, there is the ‘I can do what I like’ approach; on the other, the ‘there are limits to what is acceptable’ point of view.

I daresay there are laws that cover what may or may not be done in Anglican churchyards but I doubt whether they explicitly mention BBQs. Part of me has no problem with partying in a graveyard, provided no damage is done and all waste is cleared away; part of me finds the use of a memorial to the dead as nothing more than a convenient table-top for cooking rather repugnant. I wonder what your response would have been, and how you would have dealt with the situation? Me, I suspect I would have taken the coward’s way out, and passed by on the other side, saying nothing but praying for the group and for the deceased.

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16 thoughts on “BBQs in the Graveyard”

  1. It’s a tricky one, isn’t it? From the barbecue point of view, a stone surface is the safest place to put it. From the ‘respect’ point of view, it isn’t.
    I live across the road from a cemetery, which I have seen used as a drugs drop-off point (packets left tucked under the corner of a table tomb), and I have to say I find that far more objectionable than a barbecue. The sad aspect is that the barbecuer found it necessary to swear at the person raising the complaint – but, then, how was the complaint phrased? In the past I have made some pretty salty replies when my children have been the target for malevolently sanctimonious comments made by child-hating members of the congregation where we used to attend church (for such crimes as standing outside the church with their hands in their pockets).

  2. yes, I don’t think I mind the BBQ in the graveyard, but putting it on a tombstone? I’m not sure how I would have felt about that. At least it would have reduced the fire risk…
    The story in my family is that my Grandmother chose a table-style memorial for her husband “to be useful for passers-by to use to sit on or put their bags and baskets on” … I wonder what she, or I, for that matter, would have made of it being used for a BBQ? She was a very practical lady.
    I think this is an example of a “do as you would be done by” and a “speak as you would wish to be spoken to” situation. I wonder how the party-goers would have felt if they had come across their Great Uncle Albert’s grave being used by strangers as a BBQ stand.

  3. Praying for the group and the deceased doesn’t sound at all cowardly! I wish that would be my response but I sincerely doubt that it would be. I get cross at the children waiting for the bus who sit on top of the church yard gates and I ask them to get off most mornings so I suspect I would have asked the people to leave the graveyard or at least to move their bbq off a tombstone.

  4. I share the repugnance ! I am dismayed though at my initial reaction of resignation . I am becoming too good at just accepting that this is the way it is . Would I have said something , possibly, but might have again just decided that it would be futile . I therefore have the utmost respect for the complainer and share your prayers for all.

  5. Apart from the important question of respect, there is also the question of using what is basically an historic monument (it was a 200 year old tomb similar to a chest tomb) for cooking. Recently I visited the Merry Maidens, a neolithic stone circle in Cornwall, where there was a notice clearly asking people not to light fires, but someone had done exactly that right in the centre. Perhaps the problem is that some people view the environment as a stage set for their activities apparently without foreseeing any deleterious effects.

  6. I feel we live in a disrespectful world now.I remember the days of Reverence and when we would pass the cemetery and put our heads down or make the sign of the cross . I don’t understand what’s happening , I worry about my grandchildren they see the disrespect in the world on television in schools and school yards. I pray that the world see what they’re doing , they’re creating generations of disrespectful people.

    • I didn’t mention Catholic customs as the BBQ in question took place, I believe, in an Anglican churchyard and it would be wrong to insist on a type of reverence that reflects the Catholic theology of death. I think the ways in which we traditionally mark sacred spaces and the burial places of the dead are important and, if better known, might help people to see why I asked today’s question. We believe that the body was the Temple of the Holy Spirit during life, when it was washed with the water of baptism, annointed with the oil of catechumens and chrism, nourished with the Body and Blood of the Lord, and in death is to be treated with reverence, even if only a few ashes remain. Having said that, the feasting of All Saints/All Souls in some countries strikes me as perfectly unobjectionable.

  7. I met a hobo and his huge Alsation cross dog in Birmingham a little while ago.
    He told me that he spent his nights sleeping in graveyards because nobody disturbs him after dark in a graveyard.

    As for disrespectful – of what? The body is decayed or decaying and if the soul is there it is lost.
    Mind you, I feel very different about military cenotaphs.

    • I think using a graveyard to sleep in is merely the modern equivalent of sanctuary. The disrespect many have commented on is the inappropriateness of using a stone that has been blessed and dedicated as a memorial for a purely secular purpose.

  8. While staying in a small town for a wedding recently, the only bench we could find to sit on for a picnic was in the graveyard – and we had a debate about whether it was socially acceptable to use someone’s memorial bench for that! I don’t think you’d find us setting up a BBQ.

    In a way, I wouldn’t particularly object but then, I also remember the sadness of burying a few relations. It would be rather awkward to turn up with your coffin or box of ashes, only to find you were interrupting someone’s lunch. A picnic can be quickly tucked away, a BBQ, not so much!

  9. Here people remember their dead at the great feasts of the Church quite often by having a toast to them at the graveside. Particularly at Christmas. A glass of something festive will be poured for the dear departed and then emptied over the grave before the visitors leave. I find this very comforting, the cemetery is buzzing with life, candles burning, some special decorations are arranged on the graves…all signs of loving remembrance and expectation of meeting again. There is something very down to earth about it, too, many here will tell you that death is part of life and just accept it.

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