Losing a loved one is a grief-ridden process. Whether expected or unexpected, we mourn the death of a loved one, seek comfort in faith and from one another, and commend our dearly departed to God’s everlasting care.
If you are in need to plan a funeral service for a loved one, or would like to make initial plans for your own funeral or that of a loved one, please call the church office at 317 896-1402.
When someone dies, loved ones – family and friends, neighbors and church members – need space to grieve, to remember the deceased, and to give thanks to God for their loved one’s life. A church funeral service is an important part of a grieving process that may also include:
- a visitation at a funeral home, family’s home, or at church;
- a reception where friends and family gather to tell stories through laughter and tears;
- a public act of memorial, such as planting a tree or donating a park bench in memory of the deceased; and
- any one of many other possible acts of grieving and remembering the deceased.
The Christian Funeral Service
The Christian funeral service is a chance to come together to hear God’s promises for the deceased and to take comfort that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” not even death (see Romans 8:38-39).
In the Christian funeral service we remember God’s promises to the deceased in their baptism by draping the remains of the deceased in white, the color of baptism, and splashing the casket or urn with baptismal water. We hear from Holy Scripture words of God’s comfort and promise – comfort for those who grieve, and promise that the deceased is in God’s everlasting care. We sing such promises in hymns and songs, and/or hear them sung in solo music.
Holy Communion is celebrated at New Joy at nearly every service. This sacred meal is a mystical gathering of God’s people – from the past, present, and future – around our Lord’s never-ending table of grace, mercy, and life. The deceased, and all those who have gone before us in faith, are truly in communion with us as we share in this sacred meal. Communion is appropriately shared at funerals.
However, when significant portions of the funeral gathering would not receive – i.e., if a large portion of the family is not Christian or cannot receive Holy Communion in a Lutheran Church because of the teachings of their own faith – would we consider not celebrating the sacrament.
At funeral services we give thanks to God for the deceased and commend the deceased’s remains to God’s care. One to three remembrances (eulogies) are shared in the service, about 3-5 minutes each. If additional people would like to speak about the deceased, a reception or other setting is a very appropriate time to do so. In the sermon pastor strives to weave stories of the deceased into the story of God’s saving and gracious work in the world. A prayer near the end of the service, said with a gesture blessing the deceased’s remains, asks God to graciously receive the deceased into everlasting care.
Burial usually happens immediately following the funeral service, unless distance or other circumstances determine that burial takes place at a later date.
The Christian service at the graveside is brief, including a short reading, prayers, and words of blessing. Dirt or sand is symbolically cast on the casket, and families often set roses on the casket as a gesture of blessing and thanksgiving.
Military honors, if being provided, are coordinated through the funeral home. Some honor guards are staffed by active duty Soldiers; other guards by Veterans. Military honors take place first at the graveside, and are then followed by the brief Christian graveside service led by pastor.
Work with Pastor in Planning a Funeral
Christian funerals follow a traditional pattern that provides for grief and comfort at the death of loved ones. They also offer plenty of faithful flexibility. Special music, particular songs or readings, or other gestures of grieving and acts of remembrance are all possible parts of the funeral. A niece may offer to play music. A friend may want to read a poem. Half the family is of another religion. How do we manage all this, particularly as we’re grieving and making other arrangements, too?
Families often feel that they have to do all the funeral planning, which can feel overwhelming. Families may, but certainly do not have to, select songs and readings and other details for the funeral service. Work with pastor, who can offer you care in your grief, plan the funeral service with and for you, and assist you in various ways to remember your loved one, gather friends and family in grief to comfort one another, and hear God’s promises.
The Funeral Home and the Church
Funeral homes offer essential services in caring for and preparing the remains of our deceased loved ones for burial. They also offer a variety of services that support, but may not be essential, to the experience of the funeral – from preparing videos and prayer cards, to guest books and online memorials. As with planning the funeral church service, advance funeral and burial planning allows you to make decisions with a clear mind and budget, apart from the grief-stricken moments following death.
The funeral home should work closely with the church for scheduling the service, making sure pastor is available, and coordinating logistics for visitation, transportation of flowers and any posters, photos, or momentos of the deceased to and from the church, and so forth. Pastor is glad to be part of the funeral planning process and support the family in making funeral preparations.
Scheduling: Funeral services need to be scheduled with the church. Though the church and pastor have schedules that are generally flexible, there will be times when other church events, the pastor’s commitments, or other extraordinary circumstances would prevent the church or pastor from being available at particular dates and times. In these rare circumstances, pastor will work with the family to find another date for the service, or seek out another location and/or another clergyperson for the service.
This information, additional details of funeral planning, and a list of appropriate Scripture readings, can be found on our Funeral Information Sheet. Click the link to download, or view the document below.
Please contact the church office if we can be of any support to you as you prepare a funeral for a loved one or for yourself. It is truly an honor to walk with you and proclaim God’s love and care during this time.