Funerals

“I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, 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)

When people we love die, we are not in the best place to be making decisions about funerals. Often we go blank, freeze over from the shock of our loss. There are good ways and not so good ways of organising funerals. One of the things we need to keep in mind is that funerals are for the living. The dead are safe in the loving hands of God. It is we who mourn who need care. Funerals should care for us, comfort us, carry us and give us hope.

 

The church is always available

 

If someone you love dies remember that the church is always available. It doesn’t matter if the person who died didn’t come to church or as people often say ‘wasn’t very religious.’ Those who mourn are welcome to come to church and bring the person they love here. Funeral Eucharist or Funeral Service For those of us who worship week by week here, this is the place to be when we die! If someone you love dies and they have in their life been a communicant, bring them to church for a Thanksgiving Eucharist. This means that the family of the person and their parish family gather together around the table of the Lord for one last time with the body of the person they have loved. They are with Christ in heaven. Christ is with us at the Table so we are all together. We can also have a funeral service here at church which is not Eucharistic. People often choose this if the person who has died has not been a member of the church but those who mourn need the prayer and support of a Christian funeral.

 

 

Church Funerals, Cremations and Burials

 

There are lots of good practical things about having a funeral here at church. There are no time limits here as there are at chapels at cemeteries and funeral companies. If the body of the person is to be cremated those who mourn can gather here for a funeral, and then the body can be farewelled and go to be cremated. There is no need to go with the body. It is simply being prepared for burial. The people can remain at the church and have refreshments in the hall. This means that the people who have come to the funeral stay on to be with those who mourn. If the funeral moves off some people won’t go. Others will not come back. There is nothing to be done at the crematorium that has not already been done here at church. When the ashes are ready the family and friends can gather to bury them. If the ashes are being buried here in our Memorial Lawn it is often good to do this after the Sunday Eucharist when people from the parish can easily be there with you. If the body of the person who has died is to be buried then the gathered friends and family need to complete the journey and bury the body. The funeral takes place at the church, then hopefully all go to the place of burial and then back to the church or family home for refreshments. The important thing I have found is to make it as easy as possible for those who have gathered to stay together and complete the rituals. Part of the ritual of a funeral is the gathering afterward over food and drinks. The tradition of the wake is a necessary part of the journey. Those who mourn are carried and comforted by the people who gather with them both to remember, pray, give thanks and to talk and eat and drink! Funeral Chapels

 

Outside of the Church

 

Sometimes there are reasons to have funerals at chapels at the funeral company or at the cemetery. The service is the same as a non-Eucharistic church service. It’s a time of remembering, praying, listening to some scripture readings and gathering together. The service is tailored to meet the needs of the family.Our Clergy are always available for funerals. If the person who has died is from the parish or connected to someone here we make all efforts to notify the parishioners. In this way people who know you can come and support you. The presence of people who care about us is a very powerful thing when we go through the grief and loss that comes with the death of those we love.

 

Viewing the Body

 

Viewing the body It is good to see the person you love who has died. If the person dies at home or in hospital there is no need to rush. Spend some time sitting quietly or talking with one another and just being with the person. The funeral directors can be contacted when you are ready. The body can also be viewed before the funeral. It’s good to do this a day or so ahead of the funeral. If this is done on the day of the funeral it usually means people are very upset at the funeral. There is nothing wrong with shedding tears but some space is good so that those who mourn can be present to the healing words and actions of the funeral service. There is also the practical question of putting the lid on the coffin and I don’t think this is a helpful thing to be done just before the service while people are gathering. Another way of doing this is the tradition of bringing the body to the church the night before. This is called a vigil. There are prayers and readings and people can gather with their friends and face the death of the person they love and receive a blessing for all that will happen the next day. If there are children involved it means that they have already seen the coffin in place before they come for the service.

 

Speaking at the Funeral

 

Speaking at Funerals Sometimes people feel that they are unable to speak at the funeral of someone they love because they are too upset. In some cases this is true. Other times you might request the Clergy to read a prepared eulogy. No matter which you choose it is a special time to talk about the person who has died. Sometimes it’s good to talk about the person’s life and tell the story. Other times it is good simple to say what we are thankful about, what we have been given, what we have become because of the person. Sometimes there are hard things, things to forgive and things to accept as part of our human frailty. It’s good to be honest and real. It is good to have a number of people say something – children, grandchildren, other family members, friends. People don’t need to have a lot to say but just something from the heart. It is one way we give thanks for a life. We sit and listen and just dwell in the moment.

 

Christ at the Centre of the Funeral

 

Alleluia, Christ is Risen A Christian funeral holds together the grief and reality of death, and the hope of resurrection. When we come together to farewell someone we love it will be an Easter moment. We light the Paschal Candle. This is the candle we light in the darkness of Easter morning as we proclaim that Christ is risen from the grave. We light this candle at baptisms and funerals. It is the light of Christ which dispels the darkness of sin and death. We sprinkle the body with water from the font and we may honour the body with incense as a sign of our prayers rising to heaven. We sing Easter hymns. We gather around the Table of the Lord. The church is where we are at home. The place is alight with candles and filled with flowers. It is a beautiful space for us to be. It is a graced space. The Lord is here and it doesn’t matter whether those who gather are believers or not because God believes in all of us. God is faithful to everyone and reaches out to heal and to comfort through the prayers, through the people gathered and through all the things we do. We will help There are no rules about funerals.There are times when less than perfect decisions must be made but the church can offer, the things that we have found work well and the things that don’t work so well. At the end of the day a funeral must care for the living. Phone the church for a time to talk with the clergy if you need any help or advice.