The Pastor of Congregational Care has prepared these brief answers to some of the questions that are often asked when a loved one is taken. It would be wise to read these over when no need is in sight so that you can have these things in mind when called upon to make decisions and plans and to seek comfort in the loss of a beloved family member or friend.
What is the Purpose of a Funeral?
The funeral is God’s way of bringing comfort to the hearts of those who mourn through the use of Scripture, prayer, recollection, and meditation. The presence of family and friends around at this time supports and strengthens the sorrowing ones. The funeral gives thanks for the life of the one who has passed away and learn from it many valuable lessons.
Children and grandchildren learn things about their dear one that remind them of character qualities they need to cultivate for the days ahead. The funeral gives a sense of closure to a life and brings a certain reality to the passing that may not happen in any other way. Spiritually and psychologically it is to help us with the process of grieving. Grief is not something to “be gotten over with;” rather, we are to enter into it with expectation of God’s comfort and the easing of our pain through it. To help children understand what has happened, you may consult books in the Children’s Library especially prepared for that purpose.
Pre-arrangement of funeral details can be a great help to a grieving family.
What is the Best Place for a Funeral?
No one can answer that question for you completely, but some suggestions may be made. In the church there are valuable memories of sacred events which will serve to comfort those who mourn. The church is the place used for all kinds of happy experiences, and to gather and receive God’s comfort is most natural and appropriate. The church is open for you at any time that you wish to plan your service unless it has already been scheduled for some other function. It is your church. The ministers are ready to give priority to holding a farewell service for your loved ones.
The funeral home is an attractive and accessible place as well. Yet its only associations are with death. But its environment may hold comfort for a sorrowing family. You will have to decide that for yourself.
Grave-side services are often used for simplicity and convenience, and are sometimes the expressed wish of the deceased. But one needs to take into account the special limitations that grave-side services place upon the family. The time must be brief. Sometimes the elements make it hard for the living who are already in a nervous condition. It may turn out to be less the ministry of comfort than it could have been had it been held indoors.
Is Any Day Right For a Funeral?
Yes, except that one should give serious consideration to avoiding Sunday, in that it causes others to do their daily work on that particular day. Out of consideration for the staff of the funeral home and the cemetery, it would be well to consider another day.
What Do I Say When Friends Come to Call?
Thank them sincerely for their kindness. Usually they don’t know just what to say, but receive their comfort as from the Lord, and listen to it as God’s voice speaking to you through them. Don’t be afraid to talk with them about your loved one who has passed away. Put them at ease and they will be able to strengthen you even more.
What Passages of Scripture Will Help Me Most?
The Word of God is a source of comfort and strength to you. Here are some suggestions:
- Psalm 1
- Psalm 23
- Psalm 24
- Psalm 27
- Psalm 34
- Psalm 139
- John 14:1-6
- 1 Peter 1
- Romans 8:35-39
- Revelation 22
- 2 Corinthians 5:1-11
How Long Will This Deep Sorrow That I Am Feeling Last?
Be patient with yourself. Sometimes when we think we have overcome the deep hurt, it returns again at little provocation. But grieve with each successive stage of your sorrow. Don’t be afraid to weep and to tell your God how you feel. Seek Him in prayer and ask for His comforting help. It may take many months until you feel like yourself again, but that is not unusual. If the sorrow persists in a deep and agonizing way beyond that point, it would be important to speak to one of the pastors and find some special help at that time.
You may find that the little booklet, “God Understands,” will ease the pain during this time. The booklet and other helpful materials are available free of charge in the Congregational Care Office.
Is the Grave-Site Important?
Yes. God’s people have used burial places from the most ancient of times. God himself buried the body of Moses. The place of burial should eventually be marked by an appropriate character description of your loved one so that grandchildren and other family members can learn about their spiritual heritage from visiting it. It will be a comfort for you to be there from time to time to pray and remember. It would be well to select this place before it is needed.
Over the years the people of God have generally avoided the practice of cremation. Though the Scriptures nowhere forbid cremation, they do teach us that the human body is good and holy and to be treated with the greatest respect.
In the Event of a Death What Must I Do?
Contact the Senior Pastor’s office or the Pastor of Congregational Care. To reach one of them, call the church, at (301) 320-3600. They can help you to notify family members if you need assistance and can bring comfort and help to you.
Call a funeral director of your choice. Later, they will ask you to come to the funeral home to make arrangements for the service.
Select a resting place if you have not done so already. Keep in mind the coming generations who will be interested in the life and character of your beloved one.
Put your trust in God. Do not ask, “Why?” but ask, rather, “How can I find that comfort and strength from the Lord that I need now?”