A formal service in church offers the opportunity for those who were prevented from attending the funeral to gather both liturgically and socially.
Such a service should acknowledge elements of the funeral which have already happened, and to give a place for those things which were not possible then, including:
- Congregational participation in prayer and worship
- The involvement of others in remembering and thanksgiving for the departed
- The opportunity for all to take part in the commendation of the departed to God (for many of them for the first time)
- And gathering socially to remember, offer consolation, and give thanks.
As with a ‘normal’ funeral, the service should take into account the circumstances of the death. Common Worship provides a variety of prayers here, and prayers recognising the Covid-19 crisis are available here. The hymns, readings, and poems will, as always, be chosen in consultation with the family, and are an opportunity to honour the particular background, culture and interests of the person being remembered.
The Burial of Ashes
Most restricted funerals have been cremations. A burial of ashes might be the first opportunity even for those closest to the departed to gather together liturgically, and might be an appropriate service to offer as a wider gathering.
The Common Worship service for the burial of ashes follows on from the Funeral Service, and does not therefore contain elements of remembering, proclamation and commendation.
Thought should be given to enabling remembering the departed, preaching the Word, praying for all who mourn and commending the departed to God, before then moving to the committal and burial of ashes.
Consideration should be given to whether the whole congregation leaves church for the burial of ashes, or whether immediate family and friends attend, gathering with the wider congregation after the burial.
A Memorial Service in Church
Many ministers will be used to two kinds of memorial or thanksgiving service: those that take place immediately following a ‘private’ committal, and those that take place some time after a funeral.
The ‘immediate’ service model, even if it actually takes place some considerable time after the funeral, can help mourners to deal with grief that is till raw and unprocessed after several months.
The ‘later’ service model will be helpful in enabling the more rounded appreciation of a life which is possible some time after a death.
In either of these models, thought should be given to the commendation of the departed. For many who gather, it will be the first time they have been able to pray such a prayer in the company of others, and it may be appropriate to use one of the commendation prayers more normally used at the time of death.
Prayers of Entrusting and Commending can be found here.
For a service in church, the Common Worship Outline Order for a Memorial Service will be a useful outline. It can be found here.
A Memorial Service within Holy Communion
In traditions where a Requiem Mass is the norm, such a service might be the most appropriate, and the model in Common Worship: Funerals is available, among many others.
Again, thought should be given to including more elements of what would normally have taken place in a funeral, including the opportunity to remember the departed, and a more immediate commendation.
The Order for a Memorial Service within a Celebration of Holy Communion can be found here.