Kisses marked as ‘X’ are too “casual and informal” to appear on gravestones, a judge has ruled.
The ruling was made after Commissary General, Robert Hopkins, in his role as a judge of the Church of England’s Consistory Court, was asked to approve a replacement memorial stone for a grave at St Mary’s Church, at Great Chart near Ashford in Kent.
The proposed memorial was to husband and wife, Frederick Edward Champion and Doreen Patricia Champion, who were buried in the churchyard in 1972 and 2020, respectively.
Their son, Nigel Champion, had asked the Church court to approve a light grey granite memorial which included a pair of carved swans, a dove, a stairway to heaven and an inscription which included a verse of poetry written by his daughter which ended with ‘X’, the symbol of a kiss.
‘No spiritual significance’
However, an objector within the church community, Susan Varnals, challenged use of the ‘X’ and the inclusion of the swans claiming that they were “too big and of no spiritual significance”.
Mrs Varnals claimed that the proposed headstone was also not “in keeping with that part of the churchyard at Great Chart where it will be located, and that this may set a precedent for future headstones with designs that are out of kilter with that section of the churchyard”.
According to the Consistory Court ruling, the priest and the parochial church council supported Mr Champion’s proposed memorial, while the Diocesan Advisory Committee also supported the proposed changes, apart from the proposed inclusion of the ‘X’ kiss symbol.
In his ruling, the Commissary General said that the churchyard features other “headstones featuring pictorial images chosen for their resonance with the deceased rather than their Christian connotations”, including one with a similar swan design 20 metres away, as well as others featuring a hockey player and musical notes.
Cemetery has another stone with ‘X’ symbol
Mr Champion also told the court that there is another headstone in the churchyard that includes the ‘X’ symbol, but added that “this is not something which is of such significance and if it is the difference between the petition being approved or rejected, then without question I would be prepared for the ‘X’ to be removed”.
The judge allowed the inclusion of the swans which were Mrs Champion’s favourite birds, but he refused permission for the kiss to feature on the gravestone.
“While I accept that there is another headstone in this churchyard containing that symbol, that is not of itself sufficient,” he said.
The Commissary General concluded that the symbol is “not appropriate”, adding: “In my view, it conveys a tone that is loving, but excessively casual and informal; it befits transitory person-to-person communication, but not a permanent message on consecrated ground that serves future generations as well as the current one.”
He also described Mrs Varnals objections as “by no means unreasonable”, and said that “her vigilance about the dignity and appropriateness of text and imagery in the context of a consecrated churchyard is understandable”.