Image by Jacinta Christos

FUNERALS AND MEMORIAL SERVICES

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance… Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

M-5.4        Funerals and Memorial Services

                  The resurrection is a central doctrine of the Christian faith and shapes Christians’

                  attitudes and responses to the event of death. In the face of death, Christians affirm

                  with tears and joy the hope of the gospel. Christians do not bear bereavement in

                  isolation but are sustained by the power of the Spirit and the community of faith. The

                  church offers a ministry of love and hope to all who grieve [Book of Order, Directory

                  for Worship].


                  Because it is difficult under emotional stress to plan wisely, the Session Council

                  encourages  members to discuss and plan in advance the arrangements which will be

                  necessary at the time of death, including those decisions about the Christian options

                  of burial, cremation, or donation for medical purposes. These plans should provide            

                  for arrangements which are simple, which bear witness to the resurrection hope, and

                  in which the Christian community is central [Book of Order, Directory for Worship]. 

                  By prior consideration and planning, the family of the deceased can be relieved of

                  some difficult decisions, and the intentions of the deceased for an appropriate service

                  of worship can be maintained.


                  Members of Bethel are strongly encouraged to pre-plan their funeral/memorial

                  service. They may get a “Pre-Planning for a Funeral or Memorial Service” form

                  from the church office in hard copy, by fax, or by e-mail.  Once completed and

                  returned, the forms will be kept  in the church’s confidential files.  At the time of

                  death, the information will be shared with family members and the pastor.


M. 5.41     Pastor

                  Upon the death of a member, the pastor should be notified as soon as possible.  The

                  pastor also earnestly desires to know of those who need comfort and counsel as they

                  face death. By being involved early in situations of death or impending death, the

                  pastor can help immensely with the necessary decisions regarding funeral homes,

                  disposition of the body, and service arrangements, as well as caring for the spiritual

                  needs of those involved.  The pastor will provide the family and the funeral director

                  with the M-5.4 “Funerals and Memorial Services” policy and M-5.22 “ Use of

                  Property for Weddings and Funerals/Memorial Services” policy that addresses the use

                  of the property and grounds.  

M-5.42      Service

                  The service on the occasion of death ordinarily should be held in the usual place of

                  worship in order to join this service to the community’s continuing life and witness to

                  the resurrection. The service shall be under the direction of the pastor [Book of Order,

                  Directory for Worship].   Others may be invited to participate as leaders in the service

                  at the discretion of the pastor.  When there are important reasons not to hold the

                  service in the usual place of worship, it may be held in another suitable place such as

                  a home, a funeral home, a crematorium, or at graveside.   The appointments of                                                                 worship (communion table and articles, baptismal font)  shall not be altered, moved,

                  nor removed for the service.  Pictures of the deceased shall not be displayed in the

                  sanctuary but may be on an easel or stand in the Narthex or on the portico.     

M-5.43      Forms of Service

                  All services conducted by the pastor in the sanctuary are services of worship for the

                  community of faith. While the form of services may differ, each is a Service of

                  Witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

                  A.  Memorial Service:  The Memorial Service is a service where the body is not

                        present.  Interment of the remains in a Service of Committal has either preceded

                        the Memorial Service or will take place at a later time. 

                  B.  Funeral Service:  The Funeral Service is a service where the body is present

                        in either a casket or an urn. The Funeral Service is concluded with a Service of

                        Committal at the burial site.

                  C.  Graveside Service:  The Graveside Service is a service that takes place at the

                        burial site.  The Service of Committal is a part of the Graveside Service.

M-5.44      Visitation

                  The family may choose to have a visitation at the Funeral Home or in the Fellowship

                  Hall of the Church either prior to or following the service.  

M-5.45      Casket/Urn

                  If a casket is present at the service, it is covered with the pall furnished by the church

                  or the American flag or a casket spray, according to the preference of the family.

                  If an urn containing the cremains is present at the service, it shall be displayed on a

                  stand or table other than the communion table. 

M-5.46      The Order of Worship

                  The service begins with scriptural sentences chosen by the pastor and any special

                  ones requested by the family.  It is appropriate for worshipers to sing hymns, psalms,

                  spirituals, or spiritual songs which affirm God’s power over death, a belief in the

                  resurrection to life everlasting, and the assurance of the communion of saints. 

                  Scripture shall be read; a sermon or other exposition of the Word may be

                  proclaimed; an affirmation of faith may be made by the people; and  the “Lord’s

                  Prayer” may be prayed and/or sung.  Aspects of the life of the one who has died may

                  be recalled.  Prayers shall be offered, giving thanks to God.   The service ends by

                  commending the one who has died to the care of the eternal God and sending the

                  people forth with a benediction  [Book of Order, Directory for Worship].


                  If in a service without a casket where the American flag is displayed on a stand, there

                  may be a presentation of the flag by a member of the Military Honor Guard following

                  the benediction. 

M-5.47      Other Fraternal, Civic, or Military Rites

                  The service shall be complete in itself, and any fraternal, civic, or military rites

                  should be conducted separately, apart from the service and place of worship [Book of

                  Order, Directory for Worship]. 

                                                                            

M-5.48     Music

                  Hymns should be chosen which affirm the goodness and grace of God, and which

                  give comfort and support to those who grieve. The pastor and music director will

                  guide the selection of appropriate hymns.  The organist will provide suitable sacred

                  music as a prelude to the service.  Additional instrumentalists or vocalists may also be

                  employed but must be approved by pastor and the music director.  No pre-recorded

                  music should be used.  The family is expected to contact and to cover the cost of

                  additional musicians.

M-5.49      Flowers

                  In keeping with the simplicity and understanding of the Christian faith to avoid

                  ostentation, flowers are limited to an arrangement on the stand behind the

                  communion table or a casket spray for a Funeral Service.  This will encourage

                  worshipers to focus their attention on the promises of scripture and the grace of God. 

                  Typically, the family of the deceased will furnish the arrangement of flowers for the

                  service.

M-5..410   Photography

                  Photographs should not be taken during the service.   Video or audio

                  recordings should be  made from a fixed position at the rear of the sanctuary.

M-5.411   Costs and Fees

                 There are no charges or fees for use of the church’s facilities or for the services of the

                 pastor.  Costs to the family will be for flowers the family provides at the service and

                 for musicians and vocalists the family may request in addition to those provided by

                 the church.  It will be the responsibility of the family to order flowers from the florist

                 of their choice. Bethel shall pay $100 to the organist or pianist provided by the church

                 for the service. This amount shall remain in effect until changed by Session.

                 [amended 10/18]