January 17, 2019

A Process for Dying

I had the opportunity to help plan a very small funeral for my grand-aunt in Florida this month and concluded it would have been so helpful if there was a template or process that we could easily reference. I am hopeful this exists in many congregations especially with the frequency of funerals. For congregations without permanent clergy, the leadership surely needs guidelines on how to proceed.

Whether the funeral is in a chapel for a few family and friends or larger with full church and clergy engagement we seem to be starting from scratch for each planning. I had one helpful source, which were the many funeral bulletins my mother had at her home of family, friends and church brothers and sisters that have passed, not sure why she kept them all. Given this source and additional conversations, suggestions for a process are as follows:

  1. Provide a list of duties to clarify the family’s and church’s role
  2. Provide an estimate of funeral costs, including church expenses
  3. Provide the names of reputable funeral homes in the surrounding area
  4. Provide the names of cemeteries in the surrounding area
  5. Provide a template of the funeral bulletin that can be easily edited
  6. Provide a list of the six most popular hymns to be sung at funerals.
  7. Provide a list of the six most appropriate readings for funerals.
  8. Consider having good quality pictures (preferably current) of church members that can be shared. Families may not have pictures, so schedule a picture day with the best photographer in your congregation.
  9. Provide a list of printers or the cost to print bulletins
  10. Provide options for repast e.g. home, church hall, restaurant, etc.

In the ideal world this information would all be in one document or in one place on a website where they are easily accessible. I think it would help to reduce the stress and strife from planning funerals for all involved. For the creative and experienced this would be a refresher and for the inexperienced a much needed lifeline in a time of grief. If this already exists let’s share to the benefit of all.