While this is a time of grieving and preoccupation with the loss of a loved one, planning a funeral should not add to the stress being felt. In fact, it should be helpful since it reminds us of our Christian faith, which is that God holds us equally lovingly in life and in death. “Neither life nor death can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ” (Romans 8:38-39); so death is a passing from this life to ongoing, eternal life in a place prepared for us by Jesus Christ.
The purpose of a Christian funeral is to:
- Release the one we love into the merciful and loving care of the God we trust
- Commit the earthly body to the earth or the ashes to their final place
- Witness to our faith in the Resurrection- Christ’s victory over death, and
- Provide an opportunity for farewell by family and friends.
During life the body is respected as a temple in which the Holy Spirit abides; in death the body returns to dust, however we believe that God will provide a new and spiritual body. Although the body should be treated at all times with reverence, a simple funeral is not a sign of disrespect, and we should not be pressured into unduly elaborate and expensive funeral plans.
While trying to take into account the wishes of the person who has died, it is also important to remember that the funeral or memorial service will be of major significance for close family and friends, and so it may be very helpful for them to participate in some or all of the planning.
After Death and Before the Funeral
Once death has occurred the first steps should be for someone to contact the church and a funeral director. The church would like to be with you at this time and walk with you as arrangements are made.
The next step is to decide on how the body of the deceased will be treated:
- Whether the body is to be buried in the ground or cremated
- If cremated, where the ashes are to be placed.
Any of the following sequences of events is appropriate:
- Public funeral service with casket present, followed by public or private burial in the ground
- Public funeral service with casket present, followed by private cremation and committal of ashes
- Private burial or cremation, followed by a public memorial service
Planning the Funeral/ Memorial Service
For some, a service with no body or ashes present may seem more sensitive and less traumatic. However, this may also deny the reality of death and hinder the grieving process. Unless there are firm wishes, or the person’s body is not available, it is recommended that the body or ashes be present at the service.
For a person who has participated in the life of a parish, it is desirable that the funeral/memorial service be in the parish church since this is where the Christian life begins in baptism, and is continued through participation in worship and the sacraments. The service may, if necessary, take place in a funeral home chapel.
The officiant at a church is usually the clergy of the parish. If it is desired that other clergy lead or participate in the service, this should be discussed with the church as soon as possible.
If the casket is to be present at the funeral service, it is recommended that it rest at the church for about an hour before the funeral, to allow family and friends to pay their respects. The casket may be open or closed for this. It is our custom to close it prior to the beginning of the service and it may be draped with a plain white funeral pall and Christian symbol of the cross. Flowers are also customary as they add beauty and symbolize life and the celebration of victory over death.
If cremation has already taken place, the ashes may be present at the Memorial Service which is placed on a table near the front of the church (usually with a picture and a flower arrangement), and their committal to their final resting place may take place following the service, or at a later date.
For those who have been regular worshippers in the church, it may be appropriate that the funeral/memorial service include a celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Participating in the Eucharist can give a deep sense of oneness with the departed in Christ which can be a great source of strength and comfort to the bereaved. All baptized Christians, regardless of denomination, are invited to receive Communion; those who do not wish to receive Communion would be invited to come forward at the same time, if they desire a prayer of blessing. Most funerals do not include the Eucharist as it can divide the congregation. Many who are not regularly worshipping Christians will feel uncomfortable coming up to the altar to receive communion or a blessing. Those making the arrangements are welcome to make this decision with the clergy.
If cremation is to take place after the funeral service, the priest may accompany the body to the crematorium. Family members may also come if they wish. The subsequent interment or other dispersion of the ashes may be conducted by anyone, but should be done with reverence and with prayer.
Order of service: The following is a common order of service-
Sentences of Comfort and Prayer
Readings from Scripture
Reflection on Scripture/homily
The Lord’s Prayer
Blessing of the Congregation
Prearrangements: Before organizing a funeral service if it good to check if the deceased made any of their wishes known- especially concerning hymns or Bible readings. It can be very meaningful to include these in the service if available.
Service Booklet: The clergy may provide a service booklet for the congregation to participate in the service.
Readings: There are up to 3 Bible readings in the service. At minimum there is a Gospel reading (a “Gospel” is a early biography of Jesus Christ found at the back of Christian Bibles). If you are unfamiliar with the Bible clergy will be happy to assist you. If you don’t have a Bible you can find one online at www.biblegateway.com
Old Testament Readings- Job 19.1, 21–27a; Isaiah 25.6–9; Isaiah 61.1–3; Lamentations 3.17–26, 31–33; Daniel 12.1– 3; Wisdom 3.1-6(7–9)
Psalms-23, 25, 42, 51, 90, 121, 122, 126, 130, 134, 139
New Testament Readings-Romans 6.3–9; Romans 8.14–19(34–35, 37–39); Romans 14.7–9; 1 Corinthians 15.20–28(35–44a); 1 Corinthians 15.51–57; 2 Corinthians 4.7–18; 2 Corinthians 5.1–9; Philippians 3.20–21; 1 Thessalonians 4.13–18; 2 Timothy 2.8–12a; 1 Peter 1.3–9; 1 John 3.1–2; 1 John 4.7–18a; Revelation 21.1–7
Gospel Readings-Matthew 5.1–12a; Matthew 11.25–30; Mark 15.33–39; 16.1–7; Luke 24.13–16(17–27) 28–35; John 5.24–27; John 6.37–40; John 10.11–16; John 11.17–27; John 14.1–6; John 20.1–9
Eulogy/Tribute: The intention of the eulogy is to provide a glimpse into the life that is being celebrated, and to give some brief insights into the character of the person being remembered. It is appropriate that this is given by a family member or a friend.
Participation: It is desirable but not necessary, that members of the family or friends participate in reading, and possibly leading some prayers during the service. It is recognized that this can be difficult and uncomfortable, so this is an option open to friends and family, but is by no means a requirement.
Music: Hymns and music should be chosen by the family in consultation with clergy and musicians. Any music appropriate to Christian worship may be used, but the musician should comfortable with the music. There is a wide variety of music available that is appropriate for funerals. At times a musician is hired to do a solo (a vocalist, harpist, violinist, etc.). If you are unfamiliar with hymns the clergy and musician will be very willing to help. You may want to search some of the following titles in www.YouTube.com
The Old Rugged Cross, The Day Thou Gavest, When I Survey The Wondrous Cross, The King Of Love My Shepherd Is, All Things Bright And Beautiful, There Is A Redeemer, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, The Lord's My Shepherd, Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer, Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, O Jesus I Have Promised, Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace, Lead Us Heavenly Father Lead Us, Amazing Grace, Be Still My Soul, Abide With Me, Just As I Am, Love Divine, Immortal Invisible, Nearer My God, How Great Thou Art, Morning Has Broken, Be Thou My Vision, Thine Be The Glory, To God Be The Glory, Now Thank We All, The Voice Of Jesus
Flowers: You may wish to donate flowers used for the memorial service to the church altar where they will remain for the following Sunday service as a memorial to the deceased.
Multimedia presentations: We have a projector and sound system in the hall. If you would like to play a video or show a slide show presentation following the service. This should be checked before the service to ensure compatibility of technology.
Memorial gifts: It is fitting that memorial gifts be made to charitable institutions, and/or to the church for use in its good works and building up of the community.
Fraternal and other Observances: Ceremonies of a military, civic, or fraternal nature should be discussed with the clergy. Usually these take place prior to the Christian Burial Service or after the Church’s committal is completed.
Time of Service: Funerals may be held on any day of the week (except Good Friday, Holy Saturday, or during Sunday worship). The day and time of the service must be arranged with the church before any announcement is made. A funeral service without the Eucharist is usually 45 minutes (depending on music and length of the Eulogy).
Food: The church has quite a large hall and kitchen that can be used for a luncheon following the service. The church may have a group that is willing to provide sandwiches and squares for a donation. Please check with the church as people are more or less available to provide this service depending on the time of year and individual circumstances. The family is also welcome to bring in their own food or to have it catered. The church is able to provide beverages such as coffee, tea, and water.
Fees: There is no charge for the church sanctuary itself, though donations are greatly appreciated and help us to continue to offer our services to other families.
For the use of the hall and kitchen- $75
If you would like the services of a musician/organist- $100-150
Clergy are customarily given an honorarium that is at the discretion of the family.