CUSTOMARY FOR FUNERALS AT ST. JOHN’S 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 Saint John’s 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 St. John’s 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 in St. John’s Chapel of the Resurrection.
– 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 St. John’s. 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 are 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. Our organist/choirmaster is pleased to work with you on selection of appropriate hymns from the three Episcopal hymnals (1982, Wonder, Love and Praise, and Lift Every Voice and Sing). All music must be approved by the organist/choirmaster. Some music may be more appropriate for a wake or reception. Particularly suitable hymns for a Burial Office or Memorial Service from The Hymnal 1982 are:
208 Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! The strife is o’er
338 Wherefore, O Father, we thy humble servants
357 Jesus, Son of Mary
373 Praise the Lord! Ye heavens adore him
379 God is Love, let heaven adore him
388 O worship the King, all glorious above!
429 I’ll praise my Maker while I’ve breath
455, 456 O love of God, how strong and true
457 Thou art the Way, to thee alone
492 Sing, ye faithful, sing with gladness
526 Let saints on earth in concert sing
618 Ye watchers and ye holy ones
621,622 Light’s abode, celestial Salem
623 O what their joy and their glory must be
624 Jerusalem the golden
625 Ye holy angels bright
636, 637 How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord
645, 646 The King of love my shepherd is
663 The Lord my God my shepherd is
664 My shepherd will supply my need
680 A mighty fortress is our God
690 Guide me, O thou great Jehovah
14, 15 O God, creation’s secret force
188, 189 Love’s redeeming work is done
191 Alleluia, alleluia! Hearts and voices heavenward raise
194,195 Jesus loves! The terrors now
447 The Christ who died but rose again
635 If thou but trust in God to guide thee
668 I to the hills will lift mine eyes
657 Love Divine all loves excelling
The flowers offered to God on the Altar are the only floral tributes allowed in the church. The church Altar Guild provides altar flowers for all funeral services at St. John’s. We urge you to have gifts of flowers delivered to the graveside, home, or funeral home. Flowers brought to the church will be placed on the porch entrance to the church.
There is no cost for the use of the church or for the services of the clergy person. However, a donation to the clergy discretionary account or to the Altar Guild is always appreciated. The only fees associated with a funeral service at St. John’s follow: (Fees for the musician are at the discretion of the family.)
– Sexton: if the service is on a Friday evening or Saturday, a fee of $50 is requested for setup and cleanup of sanctuary
– Security: if more than 50 people are expected to attend the funeral, arrangements must be made through the parish office for an off-duty police officer to control traffic and parking. A fee will be charged.
For those wishing their cremated remains to be buried outdoor in the Chapel of the Resurrection, the only cost is for a plaque on the wall. Please contact the parish office for information on how to make arrangements for burial in the chapel. In consideration of others, and because of maintenance costs, flowers and other adornments are not permitted at the burial site.
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 brocade 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. Funeral decorations, however lovingly provided, may obscure this point and are, therefore, not used in church.
If the body has been cremated in time for the service, the container will be covered with a white embroidered 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 garden Chapel of the Resurrection, the committal service may be held immediately 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. The committal may also take place before the funeral or memorial service.
Funeral homes usually supply visitor books. Please tell the funeral home that two books and bookstands are needed since we have two entrances. Also, please advise the funeral home to come the night before to place markers where the hearse and family will park. We ask that you please be respectful of our neighbors when you drive and park in the neighborhood. We have no parking lot, so parking is available only on the streets of S. Orleans, Morrison, Willow, and Oregon surrounding St. John’s. Handicapped parking spaces are reserved on Morrison Street along the north side of the church. 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.