THE RITES OF BURIAL "The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all its meaning in the Resurrection." (Prayer Book, p.

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1 THE RITES OF BURIAL "The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all its meaning in the Resurrection." (Prayer Book, p. 507) At the center of burial practices are the rites of the Church. These rites: are the acts wherein we dispose of the body of our loved ones; focus our attention on the reality of death, and help us sever the relationships which exist in this life; are the means of allowing the community to recognize the loss of its members; offer the members of the community an opportunity to support the families and one another; provide mourners an opportunity to express their emotions in a supportive setting; give dignity and meaning to the end of life; provide an opportunity to express faith in the promises of the Gospel, and to bear witness to the loving presence of God in our midst. The rites cannot fully accomplish these tasks, encompass all of the mourning, or express every thought and feeling present. But they do serve as the grace-filled means of drawing these together in focus so all may come away comforted and uplifted in the hope of the Resurrection. To be sure, mourning will continue; but the rites stand as a sign of the unity we share ~ both in mourning, and in hope. The rites of the Church are appropriate at three junctures in the passage from life into death. 1 There is the Church's ministry to the dying person and his or her family before the point of death. 2 There is the funeral service in the church. 3 There is the committal at the final resting place. I. Pre-Funeral Services Although such services are not strictly a part of the funeral, the Episcopal Church provides resources and suggestions for prayer, reflection, and worship prior to the Burial of the Dead. When death is imminent, the family may be gathered. The clergy should be called in to minister both to the dying person and to the family. Holy Communion may be administered, if possible, and prayers offered with, and for, the dying person. The Sacraments of Penance/Reconciliation of a Penitent (BCP, p. 447) and Ministration to the Sick (BCP, p. 453) may also be administered. A priest, deacon, lay person, or member of the family may lead those gathered in prayer. A "Litany at the Time of Death" is provided for this purpose in The Book of Common Prayer (pp ). It is most appropriate for the dying person to participate, if possible, in the prayers. 18

2 After death has occurred, it may be desirable for family and friends to gather for prayer and reflection prior to the funeral. This might be a rather informal gathering with participants sharing their thoughts, feelings and remembrances. The "Litany at the Time of Death" (BCP, p. 462) or "Prayers for a Vigil" (BCP, p. 465) might be used, along with the reading of Holy Scripture. These services may be led by clergy or lay persons. Please remember: "The death of a member of the Church should be reported as soon as possible to, and arrangements for the funeral should be made in consultation with, the Minister of the Congregation" (BCP, p. 490). II. The Funeral Liturgy The time of the service should be set so that most people who would want to be present can be. If the family wishes, the funeral may be held in the evening with interment (committal) earlier in the day, or even the following day. "Baptized Christians are properly buried from the church" (BCP, p. 490). This is where they were baptized and began their journey into eternal life. This is where they were nourished with Word and Sacrament. This is where they met in prayer and song, fellowship and service with other Christians. And so this is where they should be brought as they enter upon their heavenly inheritance. If the body is brought into the church, it is greeted by the Celebrant and members of the Altar Guild. The Celebrant may say prayers provided in The Book of Common Prayer (pp ) while the Altar Guild covers the coffin with the white pall. At the time of the funeral, the family and friends are seated in the nave. The service begins with a solemn procession to the chancel steps, where the coffin is placed by the Paschal Candle. The clergy plan the details of the funeral in consultation with the family. Remember: within the seemingly rigid format of the Prayer Book and Hymnal, there is a great deal of flexibility. Readings -- Suggested lessons and psalms are provided by the Prayer Book (BCP, pp , ). Other appropriate readings from Holy Scripture may be chosen instead. Members of the family or other lay persons may read the lessons, lead the psalm, and/or lead the prayers of the people. Homily -- A funeral sermon is customarily preached by the clergy at St. Luke s. Generally this sermon: 1) gives thanks for the life and ministry of the departed, 2) proclaims the Gospel of hope in the Resurrection, 3) invokes prayer for the departed and those who grieve, 4) invites support for one another, and 5) encourages mourners to begin to move on with life. A family member or friend may deliver offer some reflective homily in addition to the homily, but as this is an extremely difficult task to take on in the midst of grief, great caution should be exercised in considering such a decision. Music -- Music can play a vital role in bearing witness to the Gospel. Instrumentals, solos, and choral anthems can speak of faith and hope through music as well as words. Perhaps the most meaningful option is the use of hymns sung by the entire congregation. Familiar, stirring hymns allow those gathered to praise God, bear witness to their faith, and express their 19

3 emotions. Easter hymns which proclaim the Resurrection are particularly appropriate. Family favorites which are faith-affirming may be chosen. The Presider and/or the Director of Music would be pleased to assist you. Some Suggested Hymns from The Hymnal Alleluia, Alleluia 199 Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain 207 Jesus Christ Is Risen Today 208 The Strife Is O'er 287 For All the Saints 335 I Am the Bread of Life 379 God Is Love, Let Heaven Adore Him 388 O Worship the King; All Glorious Above 482 Lord of All Hopefulness 488 Be Thou My Vision 490 I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light 544 Jesus Shall Reign 618 Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones 637 How Firm a Foundation 645 The King of Love My Shepherd Is 662 Abide with Me 671 Amazing Grace 680 O God, Our Help in Ages Past 688 A Mighty Fortress Is Our God 691 My Faith Looks Up to Thee There are alternative choices in our Gather and Wonder, Love and Praise hymnals. Holy Communion -- It is almost always appropriate to celebrate the Holy Communion during the Burial of the Dead. By God's grace, partaking of the Body and Blood of Jesus provides us with a foretaste of the Kingdom of God, witnessing to the Good News that we and all in the communion of saints are one in the risen Christ. However, if for some reason communion is not appropriate, The Book of Common Prayer provides a Burial Office in either traditional (Rite One) or contemporary (Rite Two) language. Flowers St. Luke s provides a brochure outlining the placement of arrangements in the sanctuary and the nave of the Church. The Rector or assisting priest will go over this with the family representative or request that the person contact the Chair of the Flower Guild. Flowers are not placed over the coffin or elsewhere in the sanctuary. Flowers sent by friends may be displayed in the narthex or the Parish Hall. Worship Bulletins -- A worship bulletin may be helpful, especially for those unfamiliar with the liturgy of the Episcopal Church. It also provides a keepsake for family and friends. St. Luke s will provide the worship bulletins. Fees Pledging members of St. Luke s Episcopal Church are not charged for the use of the church for the service or for having visitation and/or the body lying in state in the church. There are costs associated with the organist, sexton, and altar guild. For non-pledging members there is an additional fee for the use of the church. Contact the parish office for a current fee schedule. Receptions -- The family may want to greet friends in a place apart before or after the service. In this case, the Episcopal Church Women of St. Luke s would be pleased to provide cookies or a cake along with coffee, tea, and punch with beverages and the Fellowship Room or Parish Hall. (This may take the place of all or some of the pre-service visitation.) 20

4 The Church has committees established to offer these services. The funding comes from donations by church members. If the family desires additional food, they are welcome to arrange for that, in consultation with the reception committee. III. The Committal The Committal is the last of the Church's burial rites, the final act of giving the body or ashes back to the elements, and of letting go. Thus, the grave or the St. Luke s Columbarium is the most appropriate place. The Committal service itself is a short one, consisting of opening anthems, words of committal, prayer, and dismissal. (The Committal may be said in the church if circumstances, such as inclement weather, make the grave site impractical. It may also be said before the service in the church, or prior to cremation.) At the cemetery, the coffin is usually lowered into the vault, the vault is sealed, and the grave is filled after the family and friends have left. The family may choose to remain and witness this final act. Ashes to be interred in the St. Luke s Columbarium are placed in the Columbarium sometime after the funeral, using the rite of Committal in The Book of Common Prayer. Ceremonies by fraternal or other groups are best conducted at the home, funeral home, or meeting place of the group rather than the church. If such groups want to have a grave site ceremony, this should precede the Committal. and family members are not able to attend, a separate memorial Eucharist might be celebrated. A second reason for an additional service might be a desire for the celebration of a memorial Eucharist before or after the funeral when, for whatever reason, the Holy Communion is not celebrated in the context of the funeral itself. Another wish might be to have a memorial service for the family and close friends somewhat later, in addition to the funeral. For example, after a particularly untimely or tragic death, the family may be somewhat more prepared to reflect and celebrate at a later date. As you consider some of the issues and options presented in this booklet and begin to plan for your own burial, we suggest that you read through the burial rites in The Book of Common Prayer (pp ) in a reflective way. The Church's rites have both the purpose and flexibility to bring profound meaning to our passage into eternal life. Other Services of the Church There are a number of other opportunities for liturgies relating to death. If, for example, the burial of a loved one is to take place at such a distance that friends 21

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