Funeral Policy of Christ Church, Exeter
Updated August, 2013
“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.
The liturgy, therefore, is characterized by joy, in the certainty that ‘neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
This joy, 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.”
Book of Common Prayer, P.507
The human body is the creation of God, and God Himself took flesh in a human body. We believe in “the resurrection of the body,” and so the reverent care of the dead should be a matter of profound concern for all Christian people.
Therefore, when you have a death in the family, do not try to endure your grief and shock alone; no one expects you to do so. Do not hesitate to call your parish priest immediately, even if it is the middle of the night. Your pastor cannot take away your pain, but he or she can stand by you with spiritual resources and advice, at a time when pain and shock may make it difficult to think clearly, or to make choices.
You may prepare and file instructions for your own service. (These are not legally binding, but may be helpful to your survivors). Such instructions should not be in your will, but where they can be located and read before the funeral service. In fact, it would be a good idea to discuss your preferences with your family. A copy could be incorporated in the church files.
Concerning the Service
The death of a member of the Church should be reported as soon as possible to the priest of the congregation. If death is imminent, it is always appropriate to call the priest and have him or her present. Please see Page 490 of The Book of Common Prayer.
A preliminary meeting/conversation in person or phone with the Rector is required before any date is set or announced. This should take place prior to any discussion of dates with the Funeral Home.
Christ Church has held, and will continue to hold, services for non-members where for various reasons the family of the deceased wishes the person to have an Episcopal service. Those arrangements should be made with the Rector of the Parish.
All arrangements should be made in consultation with the priest. The conduct of the service is the responsibility of the Rector of the parish. If the family of the deceased desires the participation of a minister who is not on the staff at Christ Church, they should first contact the Rector and discuss that matter with him or her fully.
It is preferred that Baptized Christians are buried from the church rather than a Funeral Home, unless considerations of space prohibit. it is properly held in a church. 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 service should be held at a time when the congregation can be present, giving due consideration to day of the week, normal work hours, holidays and Holy Days.
The guiding rule for planning a Service of Burial is that it is first and foremost a worship service praising God and giving thanks for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
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. In some circumstances the Eucharist may not be appropriate; your priest will advise you on this matter.
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. It is appropriate that it be covered with a pall (Christ Church does have such a pall) or other suitable covering.”A covering is also provided for the urn or container for cremated ashes.
In the case of a veteran, the American Flag may be taken off the coffin before entrance into the church, then recovered after the service.
Any visitation with an open casket would take place at the Funeral Home. The casket is closed prior to arrival at the church and remains closed at the church.
It matters not whether one’s life appears to the world as a “success” or a “failure:” only God, “unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid,” can judge us. However, a brief meditation or homily, expressing the Christian hope, and focusing on the love of God and the triumph of Jesus Christ, is appropriate. It is also appropriate for a member of the family to write and read this eulogy at the service.
If there is to be an obituary read during the liturgy, it should be brief: not a listing of all one’s achievements, activities, honors, and fraternal offices, but outlining, in a few broad strokes, the trend and scope of one’s life and family ties, and not omitting such Christian landmarks as Baptism and Confirmation, when these dates are known.
The Committal (interment or the burial) generally takes place immediately following the Service itself. Cremated remains may be committed in Christ Church’s Memorial Garden. Arrangements can be made with the Rector. There is a fee of $300.00 for a Committal. This fee includes the upkeep of the Garden and the cost of the stone engraving in the garden.
Burial Service Bulletin
The Church will prepare a bulletin for the Burial Service, similar in content and design to the regular Sunday worship service bulletin. The family of the deceased is responsible for providing information requested, such as full name of the deceased, birth and death dates, and any other information requested by the Rector or staff.
The church Organist will play for the Burial Mass unless other arrangements are made with the Rector and Organist. The Rector is the final authority in the administration of matters pertaining to music. Sacred music is preferred over secular music (secular music being love songs, show tunes, popular music, music composed for secular occasions, and music composed by friends or relatives). We recommend that such music be played at any reception that follows. The Organist or Rector will advise you as to the music suitable and the appropriate places in the service for music. The presence of a soloist can be a lovely touch in a funeral service and in addition to individual solo pieces, he or she can provide support to the congregation in the singing of hymns. Additional fees are involved.
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 specifies the music.
Organist Fee: $200.00
The church facilities are available to the members of Christ Church without charge. There are no fees for the use of the church or for the services of the priest who officiates.
Christ Church is a beautiful setting and flower arrangements should be simple. Spectacular displays distract from the importance of worship and are not encouraged.
A maximum of three (3) floral arrangements are permitted; one arrangement on either side of the altar and one in front of the free-standing altar (optional if desired). Only live floral arrangements are permitted. Upon request, the church can recommend the florist we use on a weekly basis.
When there are many floral tributes, they should be taken directly to the cemetery, or to the family home, or they may be given to hospitals and nursing homes.
Floral arrangements for a burial service are customarily left for the Sunday service. If the service falls during Lent when no flowers are used on Sundays, the family may wish to take the flowers home after the service.
The family needs to make arrangements to take home any plants and flowers that will not be used in the church on the following Sunday. The church is not responsible for transportation of the flowers.
It is appropriate for the family to suggest that, in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts be made to the Christ Church Memorial Fund, Heart or Cancer Funds, or a hospital. The donors’ gifts will be acknowledged by the fund (and of course, such gifts to these funds are also acknowledged by the family).
Harris Hall is available for a post-Burial Mass reception. Our committee can arrange for a simple luncheon or coffee/tea/cookies reception. You may request this Ministry by asking the Rector.
The family may also opt to use a caterer. It is expected that caterers will furnish all linens and serving pieces. Caterers are responsible for removing their materials immediately following the reception. The kitchen should be left in the condition in which you found it.
Serving alcohol at receptions is subject to our Alcohol Use Policy.
If there is a reception at the church following the funeral, the fee for the sexton is $100.
The service is referred to as a Burial Service. The normative service includes the celebration of Holy Eucharist. A burial service without Holy Eucharist is incomplete both theologically and liturgically. If you have concerns about those of other denominations or faith traditions who may attend the service, please do discuss your concerns with the Priest.
Conducting a Burial Service is a normal duty of the Rector or Priest. Clergy do not expect payment or gifts. However, it does require extra time and care from the clergy. If you wish, you may make a check payable to the Christ Church Rector’s Discretionary Fund. These funds are used to assist the needy.
Fraternal or other organizational 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.
Vigil. 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 mortuary, and is a fitting time for some more personal, informal reminiscing, and for the last farewell to the physical remains. This might also be a good time for a lodge ritual.
Cremation. 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.
(This policy was written, edited and adapted based on the generous imitation of other Episcopal churches and dioceses throughout the country. Thank you to the Diocese of Northern Indiana. It is not originally ours, and owes its creation to the offering of many others. Thank you.)