The first step
Planning a Funeral, Memorial, or Graveside service for yourself or a loved one stirs deep emotions. It is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate life— our physical life on earth, and life that continues after physical death. That’s why these services may be seen as a Celebration of Life, even as we grieve.
At this unique time, four important things usually happen:
- We remember and give thanks for the life of the one who has died, and pray for his or her continued growth in the Kingdom of Heaven,
- We say goodbye, commending the soul to the care of God, and perhaps committing their physical remains to their resting place.
- We reaffirm our faith and hope in the grace of God and the gift of eternal life, through prayer, scripture, and perhaps Holy Communion.
- We receive comfort and encouragement to strengthen us in our grief and to continue living, by worshiping God and sharing love with one another.
Notice that these things are not just about the one who died. They are also about those left behind.
Whether you are planning a Funeral, Memorial, or Graveside service for yourself or a loved one, the greatest comfort you can leave behind is certainty that you are with God. Thus, the first step in planning a funeral or memorial service is a step of faith— your own — accepting God’s love and trusting that He sent His son Jesus to live and die for you. You can let your loved ones know you are at peace with God and then live out your life with God’s help, loving God and others. If you are uncertain about your own relationship with God, or the faith of a loved one who has passed away, you can prayerfully trust in the care of a loving God, whose ways of grace and mercy are beyond our understanding. If you would like to discuss issues of faith and eternal life, please talk with a Christian friend, or contact our clergy.
The certainty of faith is why a Christian funeral or memorial service is unique: our trust and hope in eternal life through Jesus Christ is sure, even as we grieve. As the Book of Common Prayer puts it, “The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all meaning in the resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we too, shall be raised. The liturgy, therefore, is characterized by joy, in the certainty that ‘neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ ” (Romans 8:38-39).
“This joy, however, does not make human grief unchristian. The very love we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted by death. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus. So, while we rejoice that the one we love has entered into the nearer presence of our Lord, we sorrow in sympathy with those who mourn” (BCP, p. 507).
Who does what: the church and the funeral home
Planning a Funeral, Memorial, or Graveside service involves simple coordination with the church and funeral home. Arrangements should be confirmed with each before making any firm plans or announcements about the date, time, or location of the services.
In general, the funeral home handles the preparation of the remains for burial. If the service is to be at the church and it is desired to have the remains present, the funeral home may transport the remains, and works with a cemetery on arrangements for burial or interment. The clergy presides at services, and will direct the funeral home about their role, if any. If the deceased is to be interred in the Christ Church Columbarium, the family should make arrangements ahead of time with the clergy and parish administrator.
Planning the service
Traditionally, services may include a:
- Funeral: a worship service with the remains (body or ashes) present.
- Memorial service: a worship service with no remains present.
- Graveside service: a worship service of interment at which we commit the remains to their resting place (a grave, mausoleum, columbarium, etc.).
The Funeral or Memorial service is customarily held at Christ Church. It may be accompanied by a Graveside service, before or after the church service. A reception may be held at the Church to enable family and friends to greet one another. Funerals or Memorial services at other locations, such as a funeral home, cemetery, family property, etc., may be discussed with the clergy.
Services customarily follow the ancient pattern of Christian worship at the time of death, including prayer, readings from scripture, a sermon, hymns, and Holy Communion if desired, as outlined in the Book of Common Prayer (pp. 491-505).
Information and preferences for the service may be provided on the Funeral, Memorial, or Graveside Service Information Form, and delivered to Christ Church. If the deceased has not planned their service ahead of time, the clergy will help the family plan the service(s).
There is no cost for a Funeral, Memorial, or Graveside service officiated by the clergy of Christ Church. When the Christ Church music director coordinates worship music, it is customary for the family to provide a $150 honorarium to the music director. For out of town services, it is customary for the family to pay travel expenses for clergy or staff.
Caskets and urns
Customarily, the funeral home will handle the casket at the church, taking it into and out of the service. The coffin is closed and covered by a pall, which the church provides. Flowers may be placed on the coffin, with the concurrence of the clergy. When there is a cremation, the funeral home or family usually transports the ashes to the church ahead of time. Ashes may be in a container of the family’s choice. At the service, ashes are covered by a pall, which the church provides. If ashes are to be interred in the Christ Church Columbarium, the funeral home will use the container provided for interment. Ashes are customarily carried into and out of the service by a family member or close friend, or the clergy.
Christ Church will provide a worship bulletin for the service(s). This is separate from any obituary or other publication produced by the funeral home.
Donations to any ministry or charity may be suggested in the worship bulletin.
The Christ Church music director will help lead a beautiful worship experience. The musical offering may include 15-30 minute instrumental prelude, music during the service, participation of the Christ Church choir, and coordination with any accompanists, soloists, etc. Traditional or contemporary musical preferences or selections are welcome as long as they are oriented towards the praise of God. If you are not sure about a certain selection, the clergy and music director will help you. Allowing musically skilled family or friends to sing or play at your service may be a wonderful way to include them. Such participation should be coordinated with the clergy and music director well ahead of time.
The family may purchase two altar flower arrangements for placement in vases behind the altar table. These arrangements are customarily left in place as a memorial for the deceased in Sunday worship, a commemorative notice may be printed in the bulletin, and the deceased may be prayed for by name. Arrangements should be made through the Christ Church Flower Guild. Contact with the Flower Guild may be arranged though the clergy or parish administrator.
Other flowers delivered to the church may be placed to beautify the altar, Parish Hall, and Atrium by staff members or ministry volunteers, prior to the service. A maximum of three arrangements may be placed on the altar: in front of the podium, lectern, or altar table. The clergy will approve placement of arrangements on the altar. Flowers may be delivered to the church on weekdays from 9:00 am-5:00 pm. For Saturday services, flowers may be delivered up to 2 hours before the service; Saturday delivery should be coordinated with the parish administrator. The family should remove flowers from the church after the service.
The family may collect photographs for display on a photo table and deliver them to the church prior to the funeral or memorial service. The family may create a photo file or Power Point of family photos for projection prior to the service. Photos to be projected should be delivered ahead of time on a thumb drive or CD.
Family at the service
Christ Church provides a room for the family, and friends as may be desired, to gather in privacy upon arrival at the church. The clergy will join the family to discuss the service and pray. The family enters and departs the service together with the clergy, and the remains if present. The family will have reserved seating in the front pews for the service.
Nursery and childcare
When requested, Christ Church will provide nursery and childcare during services at the church.
As a blessing to the family, and to help family and friends enjoy a time of remembrance and encouragement, the Christ Church Hospitality Ministry may offer a “punch & cookies” style reception in the Atrium, at no cost, after the Funeral or Memorial service. The family may cater a more extensive reception or meal at the church, coordinated with the clergy and parish administrator.
Pastoral needs of the family and friends
All Christ Church pastoral ministries are available to anyone at any time, especially during times of personal or family crisis, illness, hospitalization, preparation for death, and as we grieve the loss of a loved one. Arrangements may be made with Christ Church clergy or staff. These ministries include:
- Prayer, counsel, and visitation: with clergy or trained lay ministers
- Home Eucharist: Communion at home or in the hospital
- Prayers in worship: for individuals or families on Sundays
- Daily prayer: by the Daughters of the Holy Cross women’s prayer ministry
- Stephen Ministry: longer term weekly prayer and discussion with trained lay ministers
Participants in the service
The clergy ensure that all needs at the Funeral or Memorial service are taken care of by caring and trained staff or lay ministers. However, if desired, there can be meaningful opportunities for family and friends to participate in the service. This is completely optional. The clergy will be glad to discuss these roles with you:
- Ushers: Help greet guests, pass out bulletins, assist them in finding seats, etc.
- Readers: Read passages of scripture.
- Prayers: Recite written prayers from the liturgy.
- Servers: Crucifer, acolytes, and chalice bearers must be familiar with Anglican worship.
- Remembrances: Individuals may share brief remembrances in the service.
- Singers or musicians: Musically skilled individuals may help lead worship.
- Pall bearers: Depending on arrangements with the funeral home, pall bearers may not actually handle the coffin or remains, though they may assist in placing the coffin in the hearse. They may enter/exit the service with the family and be listed in the worship bulletin.