In the Christian community, death is a shared experience that touches the life of the entire community of faith. When a death occurs, the immediate family is encouraged to notify the church as soon as possible, and to share fully in planning a funeral or memorial service. A funeral is a worship service of celebration of the promises of God and remembrance of the life of the loved one who has died, usually held within a few days after death. At a funeral, the casket is present, and is usually closed when the funeral is held in the church. A memorial service instead of a funeral is held when a cremation has taken place and the casket is not present, and/or when some time has passed since the death has occurred.
The funeral or memorial worship service recognizes both the pain and sorrow of the separation that accompanies death and the hope and joy of the promises of God to those who die and are raised in Christ. The service celebrates the life of the deceased, gives thanks for that person’s life, and commends that life to God. It offers consolation to the bereaved by acknowledging their grief and anger or guilt. It provides the Christian community and others an opportunity to support the bereaved with their presence. Its purpose is to affirm once more the powerful, steadfast love of God from which people cannot be separated, even by death.
In the United Church of Christ like most Protestant traditions, a funeral or memorial service is an act of corporate worship. God’s word is read and proclaimed, hymns may be sung or hopeful music sung. Prayers are offered and time is taken both to share God’s promises and to remember the one who has died. The worship service is scheduled at an hour convenient to the family, the church, the pastor, and the funeral home if one is involved.
Graveside services at a local or other cemetery or columbarium may follow the funeral or memorial service in the church, or by special arrangement with the pastor. If the deceased was part of a masonic order or served in the military, representatives of those organizations may be involved in the graveside service when coordinated with the presiding pastor.
Here at First Parish Church, we surround members and friends in the wider community with our heartfelt thoughts and prayers in times of loss and grief. Please contact us at the church office if we can serve your family at such as time as this, or to pre-plan your service if you wish to participate in making arrangements for this last chapter of life.