Columbarium planned for FUMC-Benton

Josh Briggs
Managing Editor

First United Methodist Church of Benton is nearing a groundbreaking date for a project that is years in the making.

With more than half of the participants needed to start construction already signed up, the county’s first on-church-grounds columbarium is becoming more a reality.

“More and more churches are going this way,” said Bill McKee, member of the columbarium committee for the church. “Cremation is more popular now and why pay $12,000 when you can pay a lot less?”
The planned columbarium will be located next to the church’s main sanctuary and will be handicap-accessible, McKee added.
It will feature a brick structure with a lighted Methodist cross on the outer wall facing Market Street in Downtown Benton.

A columbarium works as a holy burial ground for one’s ashes following cremation. FUMC’s will have a number of niches that individuals or couples can purchase in order to have their cremains placed after they pass away.

McKee said that the price to do so does not vary whether it is an individual or a couple, adding that a couple may be placed in the same niche if desired.
The cost to be placed in the columbarium does not include any other funeral home expenses or cremation procedures.
Also, there is space planned for adding more niches once the initial spots are reserved.

The full amount owed must be paid within 12 months of reserving a niche as well, according to McKee.
Any member of FUMC-Benton is eligible to reserve the right to inurnment in the columbarium, both for themselves and any immediate family. Also included are former pastors of FUMC and Methodists throughout Saline County.

“I was born in Texas, grew up in Fort Smith, but this is my home,” McKee said. “I love the church and what better place than to be on the grounds at the church? I think it is a great place.”
No urn is needed. The church will provide an urn specifically made to properly fit within the columbarium.
Each niche will display only the name or names of individuals, along with their birth and death dates.

According to the committee, when a family member receives a loved one’s cremains they will be contained within in a sealed box. The cremains will then be removed from the initial box and placed in a special urn.

Families also may elect to have their loved one’s cremains present at the sanctuary during a celebration of life. The cremains will be placed in an urn and then transferred to a columbarium urn following the service.
The word columbarium is derived from Latin and translates as a compartmented house for doves. A columbarium contains niches for urns containing ashes of the dead.

“It seems especially appropriate for Christians to be placed in a columbarium since the dove is the symbol of God’s spirit and of peace,” the committee said.

The rights of the niche use privilege may not be transferred by the grantee to another party due to legal restrictions.
Upon the death of a grantee, a representative for the columbarium board will be notified by the church staff and as needed, contact will be made with the family to arrange interment.
Also, if the cremains to be placed in the niche are not interred within 12 months of the individual’s death, all rights granted to the grantee shall revert to the church unless unusual circumstances prevail, according to the committee.

Aside from the niches, memorial stones also will be available for purchase. Each stone will include a person’s name and dates of birth and death. The stones will be placed within the garden area of the columbarium grounds, forming a memorial walkway.

For more information about the columbarium or to reserve a slot, call the church office at 778-3601.

Committee members are Howell Hill, chairman, Dan Yoakum, McKee, Judy McNew and Sam Stueart.