FACING DEATH AND GRIEF
Planning A Funeral at St. John's in the Village
Notes About The Funeral Service
Information For Non-members
Funeral Instruction Form
It may be that you are reading this page because someone you love has died. Or, perhaps, you are yourself facing death. In either case, the sorrow that comes with leaving this life has now come near you. It is not surprising that many people don't want to talk of such things: we love this world, and can hardly bear the thought of leaving it. By avoiding the topic, we hope somehow to keep death at bay -- even though we know perfectly well that it comes to all of us.
The central truth Christians proclaim is that this life isn't all there is. There is more to human life than its bodily span. When the pain of separation is freshly visited upon us, it can be hard to derive much comfort from this Christian hope; we are blinded by our pain. That is when the gathered community stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the bereaved, together affirming the ongoing life of those who have died, gladly bearing the burden of its proclamation for people who are just too wounded to do it all by themselves. We are not intended to go through these times alone. The people of St. John's in the Village join you in your grief, honoring the goodness of the gift of life on the earth -- for however long it endures -- and looking in hope to eternal life together, forever, with Christ our Lord.
Death, for a Christian, is the gateway to a larger life in Christ, and while we mourn and will be mourned, we place our grief in the context of the Paschal mystery: that Christ has died and so shall we, that Christ is risen and so are we.
The funeral service itself is a specific rite focused on a specific purpose, to proclaim the central Christian hope of the risen life. It is appropriately supplemented by social gatherings at which friends and family may support one another and honor the earthly life which has ended.
Notes About the Funeral Service
The rite of Christian burial is described in the Book of Common Prayer, beginning on page 491. It begins with the Proclamation of the Word of God. When appropriate, it includes a Celebration of Holy Communion. Assuming the body is present, it concludes with the moving Commendation of the Body.
The service is traditional and ancient, encompassing 5,000 years of Judeo-Christian tradition. It is richly symbolic and yet speaks with clarity and simplicity.
Readings at the service are from the Bible. If they are desired, poetry, devotional or philosophical readings may be read at the reception following the funeral. The funeral service concentrates solely upon the Christian teaching about the risen life: that we must face death, that Christ has conquered death, and that his victory can become ours.
The qualities of a person's life are best shared privately and personally at gatherings before and after the funeral. Sharing those thoughts is an important ministry which friends and family have to one another. In the funeral, we concentrate upon the deceased's new life through Jesus Christ, not upon the life that has ended. Instead of a eulogy, the priest will take some time to consult with the family and friends and will give a short (2-4 minute) homily, offering words of hope and strength which are warmly personal.
We hope that everyone will be fully present and participating, not taking pictures or recording or distracting others by doing so. Photography, video and audio taping are not permitted during the liturgy.
Pictures of the deceased, or other memorabilia, may be displayed in the Common Room adjoining the church, or at the reception. Please note that the church is a public building with virtually unlimited access, and we cannot assume responsibility for the security of such items.
We provide a guest book for your use, unless you prefer to use one supplied by an undertaker.
Information for non-members
For many years, St. John's in the Village has ministered to the surrounding community in Greenwich Village. Especially since the onset of the AIDS epidemic, one of our important ministries has been to provide funeral services for those who desire them. We encourage you to speak to one of our clergy to get the support and counsel you need at a time of loss and grief. You will also find that the members of our congregation are willing to stand with you in your grief, if you should decide to become part of our community.
For those whose previous experience of funerals is based on movie images and secular traditions, our funeral practices may seem confusing at first. Funerals at St. John's are not characteristically sentimental, and though we acknowledge our grief, it is always moderated by the strength of Christian hope. The documents on the previous pages provide a detailed explanation of our funeral practices. In all cases, we invite you to call Father Prator, 212-243-6192 for additional advice and counsel.
FUNERAL INSTRUCTION FORM
This form is designed to assist members of St. John's in the Village in making funeral plans. Begin by reading the previous pages about funeral planning. When you have read them, we encourage you to print the form below, complete it, discuss it with the Rector, and return it to the parish office when complete. It will be kept in a secure file against future need.
Funeral Plans for: _____________________________________
Date completed: ______________________________________
The rite of Christian burial is described in the Book of Common Prayer, beginning on page 491, consisting of the Proclamation of the Word of God, the Celebration of Holy Communion, and the Commendation of the Body.
This rite assumes the following points, which should be considered in your planning:
- The funeral is held in the church, not in the undertaker's place of business.
- The body is present. While in certain extreme cases the service can be done with cremated remains, it is an impoverishment of the liturgy and its symbolism and power.
- The funeral should be held at an hour when the greatest number of members of the parish, family and friends have the opportunity to gather.
1. Have you made pre-need arrangements with a mortuary? Which one?
2. Do you plan cremation? (If so, it should occur after the funeral service)
3. Do you wish the body to remain in the church overnight, with opportunity for friends and family to keep a vigil?
4. There may be two vases of flowers in the sanctuary. Do you wish flowers? _____
Shall the parish florist arrange for them, or have you other arrangements planned?
5. Flowers from friends and family cannot be displayed at the church. Where should those flowers be sent? Please instruct friends and family accordingly.
6. Excessive floral display is discouraged. Have you chosen a charity to receive gifts in your name and memory? If so, what charity? We encourage you to remember St. John's Memorial Fund at this time.
7. Do you have a day or time of day which you think preferable for the funeral?
8. The rector of the parish is normally the celebrant; however, it is appropriate to involve other clergy in addition to the rector. Are there other clergy who should be involved?
9. Are there hymns, or other sacred music, which you would prefer? You may consult the Organist-Choirmaster for suggestions of appropriate music. If you prefer, you may allow the Organist-Choirmaster to make suitable selections at the time.
10. Here are the readings for funerals. If you have a preference, select one reading from each of the three lists.
From the Old Testament:
___Isaiah 25:6-9 (He will swallow up death for ever)
___Isaiah 6:1-3 (To comfort those who mourn)
___Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-33 (The Lord is good to those who wait for him)
___Wisdom 3:1-5,9 (The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God)
___Job 19:21-27a (I know that my Redeemer lives)
From the New Testament:
___Romans 8:14-19,34-35,37-39 (The glory that shall be revealed)
___I Corinthians 15:20-26,35-38,42-44,53-58 (The imperishable body)
___II Corinthians 4:16-5:9 (Things that are unseen are eternal)
___I John 3:1-2 (We shall be like him)
___Revelation 7:9-17 (God will wipe away every tear)
___Revelation 21:2-7 (Behold, I make all things new)
___John 5:24-27 (He who believes has everlasting life)
___John 6:37-40 (All that the Father gives me will come to me)
___John 10:11-16 (I am the good shepherd)
___John 11:21-27 (I am the resurrection and the life)
___John 14:1-6 (In my Father's house are many rooms)
11. Are there members of the family or parishioners who should be asked to read scripture lessons at the funeral? Who?
12. Do you have a preference for who should preach? Who?
13. Do you have a favorite Eucharistic prayer?
___"A" page 360 of the BCP
___"B" page 367 of the BCP
___"C" page 369 of the BCP
___"D" page 372 of the BCP
14. Have you selected pallbearers? Whom?
15. Will there be a graveside service or a service of committal of the ashes? If so, where will this be? If it is out of New York, have arrangements been made for a priest, or do you wish St. John's to take care of this?
16. Is there anything else which your parish priest should know in planning a funeral service for you?
When you have completed this form, discuss it with the Rector. When you and the Rector have signed the form, it will be kept in a confidential file in the Rector's office against future need.
signature of parishioner
signature of Rector