By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – First Presbyterian Church in Tupelo is nearing completion of the first phase of construction on its new columbarium.
The project started in July and, according to Presley Wallace of Stewart Environmental Construction, workers hope to have the first phase completed in November.
A columbarium is a stone structure that contains niches into which cremated remains are placed.
The number of cremations has risen steadily over the past 20 years nationwide, and in 2008, the practice accounted for 37 percent of all memorials.
At 11.87 percent, Mississippi still cremates less than any state in the U.S., but over the past two years it has experienced the largest percentage increase.
Phase one of First Presbyterian’s project will include the building of two columns, situated along the eastern edge of the property. The church has pre-sold 36 niches and, as need arises and the church continues to build, the columbarium will include six columns with around 700 niches, according to First Presbyterian’s senior pastor, the Rev. Tom Groome.
All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Tupelo already has a columbarium inside its chapel with 30 niches. No remains have yet been interred at All Saints’.
Other Tupelo churches are considering building columbaria, including St. Luke United Methodist Church, which will begin pre-selling niches on Nov. 6. First United Methodist Church hopes to begin construction of its columbarium after the first of the year.