The clergy and people of Saint Patrick’s Episcopal Church extend their prayers and condolences to you upon the death of your loved one. We hope that these guidelines will help you plan a funeral service within the liturgy of the Episcopal Church. To assist you, we have also developed a Funeral Planning Guide with suggested readings, psalms and hymns that is available through our Church office at 918-294-9444.
THE FUNERAL SERVICE
When you are making arrangements for the funeral, remember that the Prayer Book assumes that the normal service is the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist. This is rooted in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the basis of Christian hope in eternal life. Consequently, the liturgy has many references to the resurrection, such as the use of the Paschal Candle, and the use of “Alleluia” and of Easter hymns.
An expensive casket is of no advantage to the departed and often is a hardship on the living. A dignified and reverently appropriate funeral does not need to involve great expense. Do not let anyone persuade you that moderate expense is in any way “disrespectful.” Few people desire an ostentatious funeral for themselves, but some mistakenly believe it is necessary to show their regard for the departed by this means.
Since the Episcopal funeral service is a service of worship, it is properly held in a church, unless considerations of space prohibit. It does not matter whether the deceased was a member of the Church or not, or whether the survivors are members. The Church and its services are available to all. The Church is where we are baptized, where we are confirmed, where we are instructed in the faith, where we meet and enjoy our friends, where we exchange wedding vows, where we take our joys and sorrows before the Lord week by week. What could be a more fitting place to bid farewell to our loved ones and to commend them to their God? In any case, it is virtually impossible to carry out the worship of the Church in a funeral home, because our services assume the presence of an altar with its ornaments, paten, chalice and other sacred vessels, linens, vestments, Prayer Books and other items of worship, which are not available in a funeral chapel or are transported there only with great inconvenience.
TIME AND DATE OF THE SERVICE
The scheduling of funeral services should be done in close consultation with the clergy of Saint Patrick’s.
CLOSED CASKET AND FUNERAL PALL
The Book of Common Prayer directs that “The coffin is to be closed before the service, and it remains closed thereafter. The coffin will be covered with a white pall. No other decoration will be used on or around the coffin.” If it is desired to allow viewing of the remains, this is done before the funeral service. The purpose of the Episcopal funeral liturgy is to help us lift up our hearts and minds from the earthly to the heavenly, from death to life, from the material to the spiritual. To open the casket afterward would be to bring back all our anxieties, pain and grief in a rush, and to deny the message of Christ’s resurrection. These rules apply in the funeral home as well as in the church.
Popular music or recorded music is inappropriate for the occasion in accordance with the teachings of the Episcopal Church but may be used during the gathering time after the service. Hymns are to be chosen from the Episcopal Hymnal, and Easter music is especially appropriate. In the Episcopal Church, hymns are considered to be a fundamental part of the worship, and therefore it is the priest and parish organist who specify the music. Any arrangements or special requests with regard to the service are made with them and not with the funeral director. The parish organist shall play for the occasion. A visiting organist hired by the funeral director is likely to be unfamiliar with the local service customs or with the instrument. The fee for this service is $150.
The use of flowers is similar to that in Church on other occasions of worship — that is, family flowers are placed at the altar in the parish’s ordinary altar vases.
It is appropriate for the family to suggest that, in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts be made to the Parish Gratitude Trust, the Memorial Fund, or another specific fund which would be appropriate.
Fraternal or other organizational rites, (i.e., military rites) are not added to or mingled with the services of the Church, whether such services are held in the Church or in the funeral home. Such rites may be held at the graveside and should precede the Church service. They are primarily personal farewells and are an inappropriate anti-climax if held following the solemn committal of the body to God in its final resting place.
The Book of Common Prayer provides for a short devotional service on the night before the funeral (BCP p.465). This may well take place in the funeral home or church and is a fitting time for more personal, informal reminiscing, and for the last farewell to the physical remains.
The Episcopal Church has no objection to cremation. The cremation may take place after the service in Church, or beforehand, in which case the ashes may be present at the service and blessed during the Commendation, just as the uncremated remains are. Saint Patrick’s Memorial Garden is a fitting place for the cremains.
Losing a loved one is a very difficult thing to experience, and it is our role to help you through the grief that this presents. Planning a funeral service in a situation where immediate decisions must be made can be overwhelming. You can make this time easier for your loved ones by giving some time to funeral arrangements in advance. The church can maintain advance plans on file in the church office which can help your family make plans and have an idea of what you might have wanted through the use of our funeral directives. These directives offer suggestions on hymns, scripture passages, participants in the service, and other aspects that you can determine well in advance of your death. Click here to download a copy of these funeral directives. Once you have completed them, it is always wise to meet with clergy to discuss these plans.
INTERMENT AT ST. PATRICK’S
St. Patrick’s has a Memorial Garden and a columbarium open to those who wish to be interred here. The Memorial Garden is a scatter garden, and names of those whose ashes are interred there are listed on a memorial plaque in the middle of our columbarium. The columbarium provides for a specific niche for each person with a nameplate on the niche. Cost of a niche is $2,000. Purchase of a niche is a contractual arrangement. In the event an individual pays money toward a niche and has not fulfilled the entire obligation at time of death, his survivors or estate must fulfill the remaining balance before cremains are interred.
THE GRAVESIDE RITE
The Committal of the body or the ashes is a part of the funeral rites of the Church and should take place either at the actual grave site, or in the Church, following the Eucharist. We are blessing the grave, the final resting place, and this blessing should take place at the actual grave when this is at all possible.
OTHER FORMS OF SERVICE
There are some circumstances in which the Eucharist may not be appropriate. The Prayer Book provides a number of variations and forms of service. But these also should be celebrated in the Church. Even when compelling reasons dictate that the service should be held in a funeral home, the Church’s liturgy is used, under the direction of the priest, who should be consulted before any final decisions are made.
Funeral receptions are usually held in the parish hall. It is customary for St. Patrick’s parishioners to provide a meal for those attending the service.