Funeral Worship Planning

Spirit Lutheran Funeral Worship Preplanning

The intent of this “Funeral Worship Preplanning” is to allow you to make suggestions to your family regarding the funeral service. The word “suggestions” is emphasized, because you should allow your family flexibility in the funeral arrangements they make. Further, it is recommended that you discuss funeral worship plans with family and provide them with a copy of your suggestions. A Funeral Worship Preplanning Worksheet is provided so that you can write down your preferences.

The Funeral

The funeral or memorial service is first and foremost the worship of the Lord of Life and a celebration of the cross and empty tomb that gives believers in Christ the hope of everlasting life. While the funeral honors, remembers, and celebrates the life of the deceased, the heart of a funeral is always the gift of life that God grants. This good news meets death head-on, provides hope and comfort to all who worship, and proclaims Christ as Lord of both the living and the dead. It is the pastor’s responsibility to ensure that the proclamation of Easter life is strongly present in music, Scripture, message, prayer, and liturgy.

Worship Considerations

In the brief time leading up to the funeral or memorial service, the pastor will visit with your family about the worship service and attending logistics. The following information will help you make suggestions to your family.

Location of Worship Service - Although there may be unusual reasons for funerals or memorials to be held at the funeral home, you are strongly encouraged to hold worship in the sanctuary of the church. This is where the people of God regularly gather to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Holding the service in the sanctuary helps all who attend more clearly understand that what we do at a funeral is worship.

Tributes - Personal tributes are sometimes delivered at funerals, but are generally discouraged. Too often, those offering remembrances are ill equipped to speak in public, especially during an emotionally difficult time. The pastor will certainly make many personal references during the sermon, but it is important to remember that our worship focuses upon God’s good news of resurrection life, not upon the goodness or achievements of the deceased.

Pall - For those funerals where a casket is present, a white cloth covering called a “pall” will be placed over the casket before it is brought into the sanctuary at the beginning of the worship. The pall symbolizes the righteousness of Christ with which we are "clothed" or "covered" through our Baptism.

Luncheon - If your family wishes to have a meal or dessert following worship, Spirit Lutheran's Funeral Luncheon Serving Groups will serve it for a small fee. This fellowship time is very important for families and friends as they support each other and enjoy one another's company. The pastor will ask family to approximate how many people will attend the luncheon. If the funeral is scheduled mid-afternoon, your family may decide that dessert is preferable to a lunch.

If there is a graveside committal at a cemetery as part of the funeral, two options are possible. The committal can be done immediately after the funeral; then, everyone returns to the church for the luncheon. Or, the luncheon can be held immediately after worship with the committal to follow later (this second option is often done during winter weather as a courtesy to guests or when the cemetery is of considerable distance from the church).

Visitation - A visitation at the funeral home is frequently held the day before the funeral service. It is also common to have a one-hour visitation at the church immediately prior to the start of worship. Another option that you might consider is having the visitation at the church instead of the funeral home.

Memorial Gifts - Many choose to designate one or more memorial recipients to which gifts are given in lieu of flowers. There are many worthwhile charities and associations, but we hope you will consider including Spirit Lutheran and/or First Lutheran Foundation as a memorial recipient(s).

Other Considerations

Consult Family - It is important to reiterate that the plans you make for your funeral be done in consultation with family members. It should be your intent to provide guidance only for the decisions they will make, not create strict directives that would be difficult or uncomfortable for family to honor. Allow your family the flexibility they need to make good decisions regarding your funeral. Be in conversation with them about your preferences and the arrangements you suggest.

Cremation - There are some who worry that cremation might not be a Christian practice. Cremation is a matter of personal preference and is completely acceptable from a Christian perspective. The people of God speak of "dust to dust" and "ashes to ashes;" it makes no difference whether we return to the dust of the ground slowly or quickly. Again, cremation should be talked about with family members if this is your preference.

Pastoral Assistance - Spirit Lutheran's pastor will be most willing to be in conversation with you if you wish to discuss any of your funeral or memorial arrangements.

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