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
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.
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.
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.
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
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].
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
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
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.