Funerals and Memorial Services at St. John's
The Liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all its meaning in the Resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too shall be raised…. This, however, does not make human grief unchristian. The very love we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted by death. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend. So while we rejoice that one we love has entered into the nearer presence of our Lord, we sorrow in sympathy with those who mourn.
-- The Book of Common Prayer, page 507
At the time of death surviving family members and/or those responsible for making the funeral arrangements should contact St. John’s so that we may help guide you toward making appropriate and reasonable decisions regarding the funeral. The priests are available to meet with you and your funeral home of choice to help with coordinating plans for the funeral. Please contact us to begin making arrangements. Kerry Johnson
Funerals are public worship services, and while the selection of a time for the funeral service will be based on the needs of the family, the expectation of out-of-town mourners, and the availability of the church, we will also make every effort to plan funerals for a time when the congregation has opportunity to be present. No matter the case, all funeral planning should be done in consultation with the priest prior to establishing a day and time with the funeral home, and prior to the publication of obituaries.
St. John’s exclusively uses The Book of Common Prayer for all worship services. The Holy Eucharist is normally and customarily celebrated at all funerals, no matter how large or small the congregation might be. While some families might prefer that we do not celebrate Holy Eucharist in deference to those mourners in attendance who might not be Christian or even Episcopalian, we believe that there is no more appropriate time to break bread together and to proclaim our hope in the resurrection. As an “Easter Liturgy”, every funeral is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection – a resurrection that we share by virtue of our baptism. We will make every effort to welcome and show hospitality to those who are visiting and unfamiliar with our worship practices, and we will invite all baptized Christians to participate in and to receive Holy Eucharist.
The Prayer Book Service of The Burial of the Dead with Holy Eucharist takes approximately forty-five minutes to an hour, depending upon the number of people receiving communion. A homily is preached at all funerals at St. John’s by one of the priests of the parish. The Rector does not normally invite outside clergy to preach. Eulogies and memorials by family members and friends are not customary and will not be part of the burial service.
The coffin or urn may be already in place in the worship space or may be a part of the opening procession. A coffin is always closed while in the worship space and is covered with a pall (a white hanging placed over the casket instead of flowers).
The parish priest who has helped the family members prepare for the funeral is normally the priest who will preside at the burial rite and preach the homily. If an Episcopal priest other than one from St. John’s parish staff is desired to assist (or officiate), the permission and invitation of the Rector of St. John’s is required. The location of the funeral other than in the parish church changes nothing; non-parochial priests may only function with the permission and invitation of the Rector of the parish. Guest clergy (other than Episcopal priests and deacons) may be permitted from time to time to read the lessons, and/or lead prayers at the invitation of the Rector.
Readings from Scripture
During the service, at least one lesson from the Gospels will always be read, but several additional readings from Holy Scripture may be chosen. You may choose a reading from the Old Testament, a Psalm (read by the congregation as a whole), a reading from the New Testament, and a reading from the Gospel. The parish priest can assist you in selecting the readings. A deacon, priest, or bishop always reads the Gospel lesson. Should you prefer, Lay Readers available from the church can read from the Old Testament and the New Testament and can lead the congregation in the reading of the Psalm. If the family would like a family member or friend to read a lesson from Holy Scripture, please take into careful consideration the emotional state of that person with respect to the deceased.
The following readings are appropriate and authorized for the Burial of the Dead:
From the Old Testament:
- Isaiah 25:6-9 (He will swallow up death for ever)
- Isaiah 61:1-3 (To comfort those who mourn)
- Lamentations 3:22-26,31-33 (The Lord is good to those who wait for him)
- Wisdom 3:1-5,9 (The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God)
- Job 19:21-27a (I know that my Redeemer lives)
From the New Testament:
- Romans 8:14-19,34-35,37-39 (The glory that shall be revealed)
- 1 Corinthians 15:20-26,35-38,42-44,53-58 (The imperishable body)
- 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:9 (Things that are unseen are eternal)
- 1 John 3:1-2 (We shall be like him)
- Revelation 7:9-17 (God will wipe away every tear)
- Revelation 21:2-7 (Behold, I make all things new)
- John 5:24-27 (He who believes has everlasting life)
- John 6:37-40 (All that the Father gives me will come to you)
- John 10:11-16 (I am the good shepherd)
- John 11:21-27 (I am the resurrection and the life)
- John 14:1-6 (In my Father's house are many rooms)
Music at the Funeral
There is a wealth of beautiful, appropriate and approved sacred music that is suitable for use in the context of a funeral. We recommend that at least one hymn be sung. Suitable times for hymns are before the Gospel reading; as the altar is prepared for Holy Eucharist; during Communion; during the final procession. The Organist of St. John’s will provide music for the funeral as a part of his services as our musician. If musicians (soloists or instrumentalists) other than an organist are desired, we will coordinate the hiring of such persons. Fees for such services will be paid directly to the musicians. Please keep in mind that the Rector of the Parish approves all music, and that secular music will not be used.
Some hymns appropriate for the Burial of the Dead:
- 208 The strife is o’er
- 324 Let all mortal flesh keep silence
- 335 I am the bread of life
- 383 Fairest Lord Jesus
- 429 I'll praise my Maker while I've breath
- 447 The Christ who died but rose again
- 473 Lift high the cross
- 526 Let saints on earth in concert sing
- 608 Eternal Father, strong to save
- 618 Ye watchers and ye holy ones
- 620 Jerusalem, my happy home
- 635 If thou but trust in God to guide thee
- 645 The King of love my Shepherd is
- 657 Love divine, all loves excelling
- 662 Abide with me
- 671 Amazing grace!
- 680 O God, our help in ages past
- 688 A mighty fortress is our God
- 690 Guide me, O thou great Jehovah
- 691 My faith looks up to thee
- 708 Savior, like a shepherd lead us
- 636,637 How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord
There is music from our supplemental hymnal that is also approved and appropriate. Please discuss alternative hymns with the parish clergy.
Pews will be reserved at the front of the church for the family and for pallbearers. Please let the priest know ahead of time how many pallbearers there will be and how many family members will be seated in the reserved area.
Christian burial is a proclamation of Jesus’ victory over death and a declaration of our hope in the resurrection, which, through faith in Jesus Christ, is promised to all regardless of wealth, status, or popularity. No matter how rich or poor we might have been in life, and regardless of how many or how few friends we may have had, we are all loved and regarded as equal in the eyes of God. Because of this belief, the church discourages lavish displays of flowers during the funeral liturgy, and at St. John’s, floral sprays and decorations sent by family and friends will not be displayed. These should, more appropriately, be sent to a family member’s home or to the funeral home.
However, flowers may be displayed at the altar for the celebration of Holy Eucharist. If you would like to use a local florist to provide flowers for the altar, please do so in consultation with the priest responsible for the funeral. When the funeral is on a Friday or Saturday, the flowers will be used for our Sunday morning worship services.
There are several options for where a body can lie in state. St. John’s parish offers the family the option of having their loved one’s rest in repose at the church rather than at a funeral home. Arrangements can be made for the visitation of family and friends, and for viewings of the body. A priest of the parish can discuss this with you.
You may, however, choose to have the body and visitation held at a funeral home. Either way, consider gathering the family in the funeral home, after any public visitation, in the company of one of the parish clergy, to offer prayers and have a time of goodbyes; after which the casket is closed, not to be opened again.
Receiving the Body into the Parish
It is our custom that a priest be present to receive the body or ashes when they are brought to the church. Please coordinate the arrival of your loved one to the church with the availability of a priest. A priest will be waiting at the door of the church and will offer several prayers as the body or ashes is brought into the church.
During the Service Itself
Prior to the beginning of the funeral service at St. John’s, members of the family are invited to gather in the Parlor or Choir Room. The officiating priest will join you several minutes before the funeral begins and after prayer will escort the family to the doors of the Nave. Members of the family will be seated in the Nave prior to the beginning of the service. The lay ministers and clergy will enter in an appropriate liturgical procession from the back of the church. This will be explained and discussed by the officiating priest in the course of preparations for the funeral. The congregation stands at the beginning of the procession and is seated after the opening prayer. The congregation will be invited to stand, sit, and kneel as full participants in the service following the rubrics of The Book of Common Prayer, and will be invited to receive communion at the appropriate time and place. In the Episcopal Church it is customary for family and friends to offer speeches and eulogies during the reception; the sermon is delivered by an ordained minister.
It is our policy that service leaflets for the funeral will be produced by St. John’s staff.
Ushers and Vergers
Ushers at the funeral fulfill two important responsibilities: seating of guests, and ushering of the congregation to the Altar Rail to receive Holy Communion. We will provide ushers at all funerals. Ushers from funeral homes are not necessary at the church.
Estate Planning and Memorial Gifts
We strongly recommend making funeral plans at the same time that you execute Wills and Powers of Attorney, or whenever you are engaged in estate planning. Gifts to the St. John’s Episcopal Church Endowment may be made by individuals or by the family of the deceased. The priest will guide you if you need help directing your gift. Endowment Giving
At the Graveside/Columbarium
The committal service is very brief. It can be held either prior to the church service or following it. Family and friends may choose for this to be a private service or may open the service to all. Military honors are welcome as part of the graveside service, but extra-liturgical ceremonies, including those held by fraternal organizations, may not be held on church grounds.
It is our gift to the family to provide a reasonable reception following the funeral, which will include cookies and drinks appropriate to the time of day for the reception. Should the family desire to provide more robust fare, please coordinate that with an outside caterer and with the clergy. Alcoholic beverages will not be served. The Altar flowers are customarily used as centerpieces; if additional floral arrangements for the reception tables are desired, those arrangements will need to be made through a florist. Displays of pictures of the deceased and other memorabilia may be displayed on a table in the Parish Hall, but not in the Nave. A lectern/podium and a microphone can be made available should the family wish to eulogize their loved one.
Cremation is an acceptable practice within the Episcopal Church. For those who wish to be cremated, it is entirely appropriate that a priest and members of the family have an opportunity to pray together with the body before it is cremated. Please let the funeral home or crematorium know if you want this to happen as soon as possible.
St. John’s has a columbarium memorial garden for the interment of cremains. Cremains may either be interred into a niche in our columbarium, or they may be scattered in our Memorial Garden. Please coordinate this with the clergy, who can discuss the purchase of columbarium niches and/or the scattering of cremains in the Memorial Garden.
If the interment or final disposition of cremains is going to be delayed, for whatever reason, St. John’s can arrange for an appropriate and dignified temporary resting place for your loved one. At any given time, several urns of cremains are held at St. John’s while awaiting future interment. Please discuss this with the clergy.
There are no fees for burial from St. John’s Episcopal Church, either for the clergy, the organist, or for a simple reception – this is our ministry to you and your family. However, there may be fees associated with the procurement of additional musicians, catering of larger receptions, and flowers.