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Content about Funerals

March 1, 2010

Everybody loves stories. And, like children at bedtime, we never want our stories to end—we want them to go on and on. You could say we want an eternal story.

March 1, 2009

I’ll never forget my visit to see the famous leaning tower in Pisa, Italy. I had not realized that the tower was a bell tower at the east end of the church in Pisa, a separate building with bells that would peal when someone died. I actually became more interested in the building at the other end of the church—the round baptistery, a separate building dating from the thirteenth century built just for baptisms, with fantastic acoustics.

December 4, 2004

Earlier this year, an elderly member of our congregation died. She had been prepared for many years and had spoken frequently about her readiness for death. Her legal and medical documents were in perfect order. Her funeral was prepaid and prearranged with the local funeral director; she had chosen her casket, flowers, and, presumably, everything else related to the “final disposition” of her body. Her preparedness was well known to her family, her pastors, and her friends.

December 1, 2001

The other day I was grocery shopping. The cashier and I exchanged the standard “How are you doing today?” But this time she took my question seriously.

“Not so good.”

“Why is that?” I asked, going (somewhat unwillingly) into pastoral care mode.

“I had a hard weekend. Two funerals—an aunt and a friend.”

December 1, 1996
Q. Opinions in our church differ strongly about the "dress code" for our minister and others leading worship (a range from polo shirt to "Catholic" vestments). We would appreciate any advice you can give us, especially about the use of robes.

A. I will here limit my answer to the wearing of special worship "vestments" (although the polo shirt versus the business suit is also an interesting issue). As often when discussing worship questions, it's helpful to be aware of a bit of history.

May 31, 1992

The Chapel Garden of the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church began as the idea of one man. Though he had long admired the quaint and lovely cemetery surrounding the nearby Episcopal Church, he realized that there was no possibility of replicating it. But in 1978, when he learned that 40 to 50 percent of our church funerals involved cremation, he had an idea. He talked to the senior pastor about the possibility of a church columbarium, a place where members and their families could inter the cremated remains of their loved ones.

May 31, 1992
Nashville: Abingdon, 1979. 94 pp.

This resource is a I publication of the Sec-I tion on Worship of the United Methodist Church. "The Order of Service" appears as a special pamphlet and can be ordered in quantity. This Order includes a communion service and an "Order of Committal." The rest of the book consists of a discussion of the ministry of the church at death, extended commentary on the "Order of Service," and additional resources, including prayers and Scripture readings.

May 31, 1992
Philadelphia: Westminster, 1986.104 pp. $8.95.
May 31, 1992
Eugene H. Peterson, Calvin Miller, and others. Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1987.176 pp. $10.95.
May 31, 1992
Andy Langford. Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1989. 26 pp.

This pamphlet is a brief version of the title above, intended as much for the family as for pastors. It does not contain the actual "Order of Service."

May 31, 1992

When the Reformed Worship staff asked me to respond to an article by Joel Belz, "No More for the Undertaker," I put it off for reasons I did not then understand.

May 31, 1992
Opening Words of Scripture

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD's love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children's children.
—Psalm 103:13,14,17


May 31, 1992

For the last time this past week, I hope, I let an essentially pagan industry dictate to my colleagues and me how we go about what should be a uniquely Christian celebration.

My friend Manker Sherrod, an enthusiastic World subscriber, died at the age of 85. From his earliest years, Manker was a follower of Christ—and everyone around him knew of his faithful Christian testimony.

May 31, 1992
Fall, 1986. (To order, write 100 Wither-spoon Street, Louisville, Kentucky, 40202-1396).

This special issue is devoted to funerals and provides many helpful insights.

May 31, 1992
Funerals in Other Cultures

Funeral traditions are potent. They touch our hearts. They express our deepest understandings of life and death. They form major landmarks in the life of every one of us.

Funeral traditions are enduring. They change slowly, if at all. Each subculture, and each group within a subculture, seems to have its own ways of marking the end of life.

May 31, 1992
May 31, 1992