CUSTOMARY FOR FUNERALS AT ALL SAINTS’ EPISCOPAL CHURCH
“The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all its 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.’
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. So, while we rejoice that one we love has entered into the nearer presence of our Lord, we sorrow in sympathy with those who mourn.” (BCP 507)
When we are born, we begin our journey toward death. For some, death comes after many years of full and happy living. To others it seems to come prematurely. Some may find in dying a blessed relief from months or years of agonizing suffering. Others’ lives are snuffed out in an instant. Whenever it comes, or however it is accomplished, death is a process of life. It is a part of the human condition. It is inevitable. It is a shock to those who survive. It is an imponderable mystery. At All Saints’, we hope the practices and services we offer strengthen your assurance of Christ’s triumph over death and provide comfort and loving support for all who mourn.
The Book of Common Prayer assumes that Christians will be buried from the church, that the service will be held at a time when the congregation can be present, and that arrangements have been made in consultation with the parish priest (BCP 486, 490).
A member of the clergy should be informed as soon as a death occurs. A priest will meet with you for pastoral counsel and to make funeral arrangements:
– The name of the funeral home handling arrangements.
– If the funeral service is to take place at All Saints’ and/or graveside.
– If the body is being cremated.
– If there will be a casket at the service.
– If the body is cremated, will the remains be present at the service.
– If the remains are to be buried in a cemetery or at All Saints’ graveyard.
– If you prefer Burial Office Rite I (BCP 469) or Rite II (BCP 491).
Burial Rites/Memorial Services
The form and practice of The Book of Common Prayer are followed at All Saints’. A Burial Rite or Memorial Service is, above all else, a service of worship which gives thanks to God for the life of the deceased and for the love God has shown to us through Jesus Christ. The liturgies for the Burial of the Dead in The Book of Common Prayer bear witness to our belief in the resurrection of the body and the promise of eternal life.
The BCP contains three rites for the Burial of the Dead, Rites One and Two and An Order for Burial. In addition, forms for a vigil or wake and the reception of the body are included in “Ministration at Time of Death.” Other Episcopal liturgical sources contain services for “Burial of a Child,” (Enriching Our Worship II) and “Burial of One Who Does Not Profess the Christian Faith” (The Book of Occasional Services).
Holy Eucharist is often part of a Christian burial service because in it we participate in Christ’s victory over death and are connected with those who have died and who worship with “angels, archangels and all the company of heaven” as living members of the Body of Christ. If desired, an office of the dead without Eucharist may be said as a memorial service or burial service using psalms, lessons and collects from the rite of the Burial of the Dead.
A member of the clergy will go over the service with you and help you to choose appropriate readings from scripture. The scripture choices can be found here and are also found on pages 470-480 of The Book of Common Prayer. It is appropriate for members of the family or friends of the deceased to read the Old Testament and Epistle as well as the Prayers of the People. A member of the clergy always reads the Gospel.
Many people desire that favorite hymns of the deceased by played at the funeral service. Father Jay is pleased to work with you on selection of appropriate hymns from the three Episcopal hymnals (1982, Wonder, Love and Praise, Lift Every Voice and Sing). All music must be approved by the Father Jay in consultation with the Minister of Music. A listing of some of hymns appropriate for a funeral or memorial service can be found here.
For a detailed listing of fees associated to funerals and memorial services
For those wishing to be buried in either the graveyard or memorial garden, please contact the church office for information on how to make those arrangements.
The casket is brought into the church for the funeral by pall bearers and positioned in front of the altar where it will stay for the service. The casket is closed before the funeral and not opened again (BCP 468, 490). Visitors are asked to be reverent and respectful in the church, using the time prior to the beginning of the service for meditation rather than visiting.
Instead of being covered with a blanket of flowers, the casket is covered with a pall owned by the church and used to cover every casket placed here. The principle behind this practice is illustrated by an experience related by the Bishop of Alaska. On the day that the Archbishop of Canterbury conducted the funeral service of King George VI of England, the Bishop of Alaska was burying an Indian woman in a remote village in the Arctic Circle. The services were identical; the king and the Indian woman were both children of God and equal in God’s sight and love.
If the body has been cremated in time for the service, the container will be covered with a white pall and placed on a stand in front of the altar prior to the beginning of the service. If the cremains are to be placed in the memorial garden, the committal service may be held immediately before or after the burial office. A memorial service may be held before the remains are cremated and the committal service may be held at another time.
Funeral homes usually supply visitor books. It is not appropriate to schedule a funeral on a Sunday or a High Feast Day (i.e. Christmas, Easter, etc.). Since the funeral liturgy is an Easter liturgy, white vestments are worn. Even during Lent, the liturgy remains an Easter liturgy and “Alleluia” is sung where it occurs in the rite.
During the Middle Ages and into the Reformation, Christian burial rites tended to focus on the “Last Judgment and prayer that the souls of the departed be delivered from hell and eternal damnation” (Mitchell, Leonel L, Pastoral and Occasional Liturgies: A Ceremonial Guide, Cowley Publications, 1998, p. 89). However, the 1979 Book of Common Prayer is forceful in its affirmation of the Resurrection as the meaning of the liturgy of the dead, a liturgy characterized by joy in the love of God in Christ Jesus, who gives us victory over death and hope of eternal life. Although this joy is moderated by our sorrow and grief, it is still the main quality of the liturgy and best expressed in the word of the Commendation “All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make song: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia” (BCP 499).
May your troubled souls find peace in the knowledge of the love of God and of his son Jesus Christ our Lord.