By Jonnelle Davis – Greensboro.com –
GREENSBORO — Hanes-Lineberry’s renovated North Elm Street funeral chapel offers more than just a place for viewings and memorial services.
Nonprofit board meetings. Community forums. Even wedding receptions. All are welcome at the new chapel, where pews were replaced with chairs, which can be removed after funerals or arranged around tables for any number of events.
It’s part of a trend in the funeral industry, as more families choose the cheaper option of cremation over formal services and burials, and funeral directors are left to ponder what to do with their space — and how to make up for the money lost.
Al Lineberry II describes the renovated chapel — now called the Lineberry Center — as a community room. He said he and his staff members are “just kind of opening our eyes to see what we can do — or what the community would like to do.”
It’s a concept Lineberry first considered more than a year ago. He read an article about another funeral home doing something similar. Lineberry also took notes from First Presbyterian Church, where he is a member. The church completed a renovation of its campus nearly two years ago. During the construction, the congregation held services — including funerals — in its family center, Lineberry said.
That got him thinking about other uses for his chapel. Times — and traditions — are changing, after all.
Lineberry said more people are choosing to have funerals in churches. He said there was a time when he used the chapel 10 times a week for services.
“It’s a whole lot less” today, said Lineberry, the funeral home’s former owner and president who now serves as its corporate consultant.
He said other people, such as millennials, aren’t as interested in the same “formalities” that older generations are accustomed to.
And cremations, a considerably cheaper option than funerals and burials, are on the rise. In 2005, the cremation rate was 32.3 percent, compared with 61.4 percent for burials, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. In 2010, cremations rose to 40.4 percent and burials dropped to 53.3 percent.
Cremations reached 48.5 percent last year, surpassing the burial rate of 45.4 percent, preliminary data from the association shows. That trend is expected to continue, with cremations reaching 71.1 percent by 2030, according to the association.