Decisions about funerals have to be made when we are at our most vulnerable. We have just lost someone we greatly love and are likely to be in a state of great shock. It is of special importance for interchurch couples to discuss freely their own personal feelings about bereavement and funerals, so that when the day comes for arrangements to be made a plan can be acted upon which they have long ago agreed on jointly.
The focus of a funeral
A funeral has a dual focus: on the person who has died and on our own hope of eternal life. It should also take account of the mourners’ own profound sense of grief and loss.
For the person who has died, a funeral is an appropriate memorial and thanksgiving, indicated in the final commendation of the soul to the peace of God and the recognition of our own hopes and longings for eternal life in Christ.
For the bereaved, a funeral is equally important as a means of saying farewell to someone we have loved and with whom we have shared much.
This is as true for children as for adults; being open and honest with children and allowing them to attend a funeral if they wish is a means of supporting a child as he or she negotiates the way through the process of grieving.
All the principal Christian denominations in Great Britain have funeral services with elements in common, and there is nothing to prevent anyone from drawing on more than one tradition in compiling a service.
Things to consider
Some people might find it helpful:
- to have the coffin in the home prior to the funeral;
- to have the coffin taken to the church the night before the funeral, with a service there to receive it. Some interchurch couples have had the coffin taken to their spouse’s church to rest overnight before being taken to “their” church for the funeral service.
- to have a memorial book at such a service/at the funeral in which names and addresses of those present can be entered. (Some undertakers leave cards in the pews for this purpose.) The existence of such a book needs to be brought to the congregation’s attention at the end of the service.
- to work out the funeral service for themselves in advance to aid the process of grieving for the surviving partner and in recognition of their responsibilities;
- to remember the role of secular readings as well as Biblical ones;
- to bear in mind that music brings in a powerful personal element irrespective of its source (this may be particularly important if children are involved) and that family members or friends might appreciate being asked to play an instrument or sing at the service;
- to consider inviting friends/relatives to take a speaking part in the service (with an alternative person in the background in case the invited participant is overcome by emotion);
- to plan some form of reception, even if very simple, to follow the funeral to meet the need for people to talk through what has happened (at home, in a church hall, etc.);
- to consider the possibility of a memorial service (with or without a Eucharist), held at a time when friends and relatives who might not be able to have time off work for a funeral would be able to come;
- to create after the funeral a personal anthology, including helpful prayers, poems and quotations sent by family and friends, perhaps extending to a photographic record of a life, with comments.
Interchurch Couples Experience
It may be helpful for those in interchurch families to first to read about the decisions and the experiences, both happy and less so, of others before trying to think about their own situation.
You can find a few examples by clicking on the button below:Suggested Reading and Members Stories »