At a congregation that bears the name Resurrection, it is our privilege to walk alongside of you in this journey of grief. We will help you plan and implement a Christian funeral or memorial service to honor the memory of your loved one and celebrate the hope of the resurrection. In the event of a death, our pastors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and will be glad to respond to you with pastoral care and to begin the process of planning the service.
Jesus said: “I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:3
In the first days following a loved one’s death, the family faces a deluge of decisions. During such an emotional, stressful and demanding time, plans that have been made earlier lighten the load after death and can be a “last gift” you give to your loved ones. If you’ve not made advance plans, this guide will be helpful to you as you make arrangements for services and burial of your loved one. The pastors are available to discuss any item with you. The worksheet at the end may be left at the church office and should be shared with the a family member or friend who will act on your behalf after your death.
The Goal of the Christian Funeral Service
Upon a person’s death, the Church shares the grief of those who mourn and remembers the brevity of life on earth. A funeral liturgy allows those who mourn to give voice to sorrow, thank God for their loved one, and entrust their companion into the hands of God. The gathering of family and friends, who form a community of hope for a funeral or memorial service, is a rich opportunity to recall the promises of God through Christ. Because of His suffering, death, and resurrection to new life, each time we gather to worship upon the death of a loved one, we do so in the context of God’s promise of Resurrection Life. Every funeral includes praising God in Christ who is our hope and our salvation, even as we remember the deceased and give thanks to God for the time shared with that person. Lutheran Christians therefore shape the liturgy in order to “grieve, but not as those who have no hope.”
We gather to celebrate that sure and certain hope, even as we experience death as a time of loss when sorrow, grief, and bereavement are both natural and appropriate. These two truths inform the Christian funeral or memorial service in the Lutheran tradition – we create space and give voice to our grief and pain as we remember our loved one, but above all else, in God’s presence together, we witness to our Easter faith in the communion of saints, the resurrection of the body, and the life ever-lasting. Every funeral or memorial service is worship, and all that takes place should be consistent with this principle.
Faithful Funeral Planning Questions and Answers
What is the difference between a funeral and memorial service?
Simply put, at a funeral service the body of the deceased is present, whereas at a memorial service either the deceased’s ashes or no remains are present. Both services provide an opportunity to proclaim God’s death defeating acts in Christ as we remember all that God has given us in the life of
our loved one.
Where should we hold the service?
Resurrection strongly encourages families to gather together at the church. Because the whole of Christian life is shaped by our Baptism into the crucified and risen Christ, formed by the proclaimed Word of God, and nurtured through the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the normative funeral rite of the Church also reflects these practices in the very place we experience them week after week.
How does the Church view cremation?
Cremation is not only an acceptable way for Christians to deal with one’s earthly remains, but also may be seen as wise stewardship. The Scriptures tell us that we are formed “of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7) and, after death, we shall return “again to dust.” (Job 34:15)
Do we bring the ashes to church?
Except in unusual circumstances, the body or cremated remains of a church member are brought to the church, celebrating one’s Baptism into Christ and promise of resurrection of the body. A white pall or cloth is placed over the casket or urn as a reminder of this Easter promise, as well as the Paschal Candle which is lit and accompanies the casket or urn during the liturgy.
If I choose cremation, do I need to secure the services of a Funeral Director?
We do recommend working with a Funeral Director. This professional will ease the strain upon family members by coordinating all the details and thus contributing to your wishes being carried out with dignity and honor. Even if cremation is your desire, a Funeral Director handles many details that are not taken care of by the church, the Pastor, or family members.
Should I make pre-arrangements with a Funeral Director?
Making the decision to pre-arrange some aspects of your funeral and/or burial is very helpful. An appointment with a Funeral Director in advance of death can be a wise step to help you decide what you and your family need from the many services available without pressure to spend unnecessary funds when you are in the midst of grief. RLC’s pastors are available to talk with you about the selection of a Funeral Director or to refer you to those they know well and hold in high regard.
How soon after death does a funeral or memorial service take place?
Funeral services are generally held within three to five days following death, thereby allowing appropriate time for family members and friends to gather for the service. Memorial services can be held at any time. However, waiting for weeks or even months after a death will have a bearing on
finding a sense of closure, and this will impact the grief work that follows the death of a loved one. Therefore, it is recommended that a memorial service be held within a few weeks after death. If a funeral or memorial service is to be followed by a burial that same day, the schedule of the cemetery workers impact your decision. Surcharges often apply for evening or weekend burials, and burials are often not available on holidays. It is also possible to have the burial before the service which allows for a late afternoon or evening service.
Is it appropriate to celebrate Holy Communion as a part of the service?
Again, because the whole of Christian life is shaped by our Baptism into the crucified and risen Christ, formed by the proclaimed Word of God, and nurtured through the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the funeral rite of the Church also reflects these practices we experience week after week. As the disciples on the road to Emmaus, those who are walking in grief and pain may profoundly experience the presence of the Risen Christ “in the breaking of the bread.” And although Resurrection practices an “open table”, families may also wish to consider the numbers of grieving friends or family present who because of their own beliefs or piety would feel uncomfortable or even excluded. In these cases, they may wish to underscore the assembly’s unity in Christ without celebrating Holy Communion.
What fees are associated with a funeral or memorial service at Resurrection?
The pastors consider this a part of their ministry to members of RLC, although many do give an honorarium of their own choosing. There is also no fee for the use of Resurrection Hall for a fellowship meal. A fee schedule for musicians or other participants such as video recorders or custodial services is available from the church office.
Who makes arrangements for the musician(s)?
Resurrection’s Director of Worship and Music and/or the Pastor will work with you to schedule an organist/pianist. Another instrumentalist or vocalist may also be selected by you or your family, but must also be arranged through them.
May we have a visitation at the church the evening before the service, or must that take place at a funeral home?
The visitation may take place at Resurrection the afternoon or evening before the service if there are no other events already scheduled. In addition, a visitation time is typically offered at the church prior to the service.
Who is responsible for producing the order of worship and bulletin?
After the service has been planned with the Pastor, if you choose to have a bulletin the church office will produce the bulletin at no cost to your family.
Who is responsible for submitting the death notice and obituary to the newspaper?
The Funeral Director will take care of this for you. A full obituary normally appears 2-3 days before the visitation and funeral. There is a cost for this, and the Funeral Director will assist you. Notices to other newspapers can also be handled by the Funeral Director at your request. Resurrection will
normally include such notices on our prayer chain and broadcast email.
Who plans the reception following the funeral or memorial service?
If you choose to gather in Resurrection Hall, the church office staff will schedule the room and make these arrangements with the Funeral Meal Ministry Team and your family. While it is often difficult to estimate a number of people you anticipate attending, thinking about this ahead of time can help assure a sufficient amount of food and seating for all. Any leftover food is yours to take home, or may be delivered to agencies in the community that welcome donations.
What if I desire to have memorials directed to Resurrection or other organizations?
This is a faithful and honorable thing to do. Resurrection and any other organizations you choose are blessed when memorials are directed to support their ministries and missions. The Funeral Director will be happy to include any memorial designation(s) in the notices about the funeral service. All memorial gifts received directly by Resurrection will generate an acknowledgment to you. In addition, we encourage RLC disciples to consider leaving a legacy through major gift planning through wills or bequests. Information and education about such instruments which can leverage
considerable generosity for years to come are available through the church office.