JOURNEY JOURNAL... Poway, California
For hundreds of years, columbaria have been located inside churches, on their properties, or on the grounds of cemeteries they own. Nowadays, they have become all the more prolific as cremation rates have increased and people seek meaningful places for final disposition of cremated remains.
Though contemporary styles abound, the notion of columbaria connected to religious sites is far from new. Since ancient eras of Buddhism, for instance, cremated remains have been placed in urns sheltered within columbaria – sometimes as part of Buddhist temples. During more recent times, the Catholic Church has joined the legion of religions where they have materialized. Since 1963, the Vatican has permitted cremation as a practical alternative to bodily burial... as long as reverence and respect for the physical substance of a deceased individual is maintained according to mandates. Scattering cremated remains or retaining them at home are not allowed, but columbarium niches are acceptable.
These days, parishioners from the gamut of sects see the value of having columbaria within their immediate church environments. Years ago, churchgoers were routinely buried in plots adjacent to church edifices, so the current trend toward columbarium construction somewhat mirrors that historical practice. Accessibility, affordability, and relevance in accord with religious dogmas are factors that support desirability. This type of station can be incorporated into existing dimensions or built as separate entities on small parcels of land.
Diversity of modern architectural designs makes it possible to embed niches in walls, around statues, and against windows, or configure as separate units within established buildings. Outdoors, exterior walls or garden settings may be utilized for such projects, with all kinds of options for design elements and supplemental appointments.
California’s oft-undulating terrain can afford diversionary settings for this manner of final resting in peace. Since 1993, an elevated section on the property of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church has served that purpose.
Everyone is familiar with the metaphorical concept of a climb to heaven after death. Reference is made to an upward trajectory, often via a stairway to heaven that accommodates the process of ascension.
In this case, though, anyone who wants to commune with spirits of deceased life companions in close proximity to their physical residuals must, likewise, do a bit of ascending. Actually, as one courses upward by way of a long ramp with incremental turns at acute angles, there is a tantalizing tendency to note the metaphorical significance of the layout. It’s not often that a cement trail of this nature sends one’s mind into orbit, endowing a pathway with figurative meaning that incites denotation. Access to this church’s columbarium is different than the norm, rendering an added ethereal element of interest to the complex at the top of the hill.
The Susan S. Cashmore Memorial Columbarium, made possible through the donation of a former church member's family, is described as a Christian burial site for urns. Five hundred wall niches within several structures can accommodate cremated remains of either one or two individuals.
Garden plots for burial of urns are available as well.
Protruding platforms at the base of the structures entreat placement of memorial flowers and potted plants.
Clergy are available to conduct committal services or commemorative proceedings here.
The enveloping configuration of successive identical formations and the opposite wall of niches comprise a space suggestive of seclusion. Benches inviting repose under the shade of a tree defy intrusion of sights and sounds from the life going on at street level below. It is a place of quietude… a place of peaceful rest.
Exploration on premises of religious organizations around the country is apt to reveal a surprising number of columbaria on their respective properties. Though, typically, a niche is a niche is a niche, the settings in which these cookie-cutter compartments are integrated can leave lasting impressions of novel distinctions. A stroll to the heights of a heavenly haven may be all that it takes to come to that conclusion.