For most of us, as we go through the daily minutiae of our lives, death is an abstraction. So, when it happens around us, we are caught off-guard, unprepared. As a minister, you can't let that happen.
What would you do if a friend or loved one dies and you are asked to do the service? Would you turn down that honor, simply because you are fearful about having never done one and don't know what to say? You are expected to know these things.
TAKING THE MYSTERY OUT OF FUNERALS
(An excerpt from Weddings, Funerals and Rites)
Several years ago, I recognized this and began learning about
funeral and memorial services. I contacted funeral homes and
discovered, among other things, that there is a definite need
for ministers to perform non-denominational services. I decided
I wanted to conduct memorial services as an addition to my wedding
business, so I began creating a healing service for the occasion.
The hardest parts for me were combating the potential fear
of how I would feel about being around a dead body and trying
to figure out what I was going to say. Until the time of my
first memorial, I'd never even attended a service, let alone
seen a dead body. I'd like to start by saying that a dead body
looks a lot like a wax dummy. Not scary at all. It quickly becomes
apparent that the spirit has departed and what remains is merely
an empty vessel.
As for the words to say, I quickly discovered that there is
very little material written about funerals and virtually nothing
available for ministers who want to perform them. I did find
one service from a traditional religion and one from another
non-denominational religion. Neither was quite the truth I wanted
to share, but it gave me a place to start
.I begin my services with an opening and a welcome. I thank
people for coming and begin to talk about why we are there,
to celebrate the life of someone they have loved. I invite people
to say hello in spirit to the deceased, while I lead everyone
in a prayer. I talk a bit about life and death and what we have
learned from the deceased before I move into the eulogy. (I
created a standard opening for the eulogy, then I fill it in
with information and stories I gather from the bereaved before
the service.) I move on to talk about the value of telling stories
and remembrances about the deceased and invite people to say
a few words. It is not unusual to have nobody speak at the service,
but sometimes people will come up if it's left open to them.
At this point, there is some additional flexibility. I enjoy
singing 'Amazing Grace' at funerals. Not everyone is comfortable
with that, but there still can be room for a musical introduction.
Just be sure the funeral director knows if a tape or CD needs
to be played. A candle-lighting ceremony, some scripture, or
some selected poems can be put next. The closing is a prayer
and a benediction.
If the body is going to be interred (buried), then I go to
the graveside (unless I'm already there) and say some words
of scripture, the Lord's Prayer and the words for the interment
(giving the body back to the ground, etc.). I don't necessarily
do it in that order; it just depends on what feels right at
the time. It's good to be prepared.
I have found that memorial services are a tremendous place
to teach, learn and to heal. One important thing to remember
when you are conducting the service is that it is important
for you to rein in your own feelings. There will be a lot of
people around you in pain and grief. It's not your job to match
them. It is your job to distance yourself somewhat and be compassionate,
yet strong, so that the bereaved can lean on you and feel free
to express their own grief.
Time of Grief
During times of grief, you, the minister, become central in
bringing comfort and hope to the bereaved. ULC ministers are
not likely to preside over funerals held in churches because
the local pastor would be involved and certainly hold the service.
The services explained here are for funeral chapel and graveside
It's important during this time, to set people's minds at rest.
They may be experiencing grief, uncertainty about the fate of
their loved one after death, anger, fear, etc. It's up to you
to recognize those emotions and do your best to put them at
Many ULC ministers are called upon to perform the ceremony in
the funeral chapel only. Some are called upon for a graveside
ceremony only. Not all funerals are religious in nature and
the minister should be prepared to offer a civil ceremony without
references to God or any particular belief system. The family
knows what their beliefs are and those of the deceased and those
must be honored.
It is common in these days for the minister to include some
biographical content into testimonials section or the eulogy,
which reminds individuals that the departed on was a member
of a family or group and was at the same time an individual.
You can get this information when you make your call to the
bereaved before the funeral service.
There is no absolute format to conduct a funeral. I am going
to presume that the minister is not well acquainted with the
family and has been asked to preside over the funeral service
in a funeral chapel. There may also requests for graveside interment,
services (committal ceremonies). These are usually much shorter.
By Dave “Reverend Al” Kjono
Who would think that even criminals would strike when a family is suffering in the sorrow of putting a loved one to rest? It happened during my father’s funeral on January 3, 2009. Thieves broke into and burglarized my father and mother’s home while everyone was at the Memorial at their church. I simply can not express the feeling of violation a burglary puts into one’s consciousness, but suffice it to say, it is devastating. This is the first time my parents ever had this happen in 65 years of marriage. Personally I have had two such experiences in my life.
It’s no wonder that security and surveillance has become a fast growing business in the world. Not all of us can afford such luxury and often we simply do not think of such tragic circumstances in our daily lives. We found out this past week that the perpetrators used the funeral notice in the newspaper and the phone book to pull off the crime. They knew no one would be home for several hours during the funeral and following Memorial and got the address of the deceased from the phone book.
Naturally a funeral for a loved one creates nothing but havoc in our life. We don’t get sleep for days upon days, we are hectically making arrangements and life simply gets put on hold during this emotional hurricane. There are a few simple things that can prevent this from happening though.
1. Have two or three people stay at the home of the deceased during all services. A single person is also vulnerable to a thief intent on taking advantage of this situation. This can even be a “tag team” situation where trusted friends or family can trade off during the various phases of remembrance during the day.
2. Make sure it is obvious from outside the home people are there. Take note of any suspicious vehicles or people walking by or loitering within eye-shot of the house.
3. Don’t be routine and “usual” during the days before the ceremony. Go in and out of the house, leave lights on during the night and make sure all locks are locked if anyone leaves. If you have home security, do not call the service and tell them about your absence and change your codes. This information has been used by employees in the past to arrange time for their outside “friends”.
4. If at all possible have one or two family or friends stay with the survivor for a few days before and after the funeral. This adds to the break up of routine.
5. While posting the obituary and memorial service information in the paper, have a contact number that is not connected to the deceased home. The church or funeral director or an organized friend/family member is a good way to divert attention from the home.
6. For a few dollars, timers that you can plug lamps, stereos and such into, can be purchased to further create the illusion of non-routine.
It’s a shame that we should even have to think about all this during such a devastating time in one’s life, but alas it is the times we live in. I hope some of this information helps others who may be faced with a similar situation. A burglary does not help during the grieving process and further exasperates a devastating situation.
Blessings of Light, Peace and Healing,
Dave “Reverend Al” Kjono
Marriage Laws: In this section, there is a video that describes all the laws in the various states about which ones require a letter of good standing and credential and which don't. There's also a list, so you'll know the legalities of performing a wedding in the various states.
The Marriage Ceremony:In here, I'd like to talk with you about being a wedding minister. How do you set yourself up? What do you do at a consultation? What do you wear? What happens during the processional? All of these things are covered, along with a lot more, like processional examples, which is a common question from couples.
The Funeral: Many ministers are intimidated when it comes to funerals. This article will help take out the mystery and let your confidence shine through. You'll learn a lot about funerals and how to conduct them in a professional manner.
Wiccan Training Pages:This section has a number of different articles written about Wicca. If you've ever been curious about it or it strikes a chord in you and you want to learn more, this is the place to look. Compliments of Lord Starwalker, among others.
Starting Your Own Church:If you are interested in starting your own church, please review these pages and feel free to use the samples to help you in your own quest to start a new church. There are samples of different things you need to file with the state or IRS.
Possession and Demons: This section was written by one of our ULC ministers to share some of his insight on Possession and Demons. There are those who disagree with this concept entirely and those who believe in it whole-heartedly. This is one person's interpretation of the concept.
Coping with Transition Anxiety: If you are asked to help someone make a transition from living independently, to moving to assisted care living, then this article may help address some concerns that will arise. This material can easily overlap into other areas where the information still applies.
10 Commandments: This is a short discourse about the varieties of the 10 commandments that have been debated between the various religions for centuries. It's interesting to understand the differences in the various 10 commandments and it's good for our ministers to have a firm grasp of the different religions.
Being A Minister: This is an insteresting talk about what it means to be a ULC Minister. It's a great way to look at how we deal with other people, what we can do for our communities and how we can best serve ourselves and the other people we come across.
Seven Questions About Being A Minister: To be a minister, consider these seven major questions about what you're doing with your ministry and why you're doing it. This essay may help you focus your ministry needs and goals.
Some appropriate scripture and
poetry selections are below:
The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all
who call upon Him in truth.
( Ps. 145:14-16, 18 )
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will
give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I
am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your
souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
( Matt. 11:28-30 )
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said
to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at
the last day.
"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy lade, and I will
give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I
am gentle and lowly in heart, an you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
( Matthew 11:28-30 )
Or you may use a "prayer poem":
Oh, ask not thou, How shall I bear
The burden of tomorrow?
Sufficient for today, its care,
Its evil and its sorrow;
God impartest by the way
Strength sufficient for the day
-- Jane E. Saxby
To heaven I lift my waiting eyes;
There all my hopes are laid;
The Lord that build the earth and skies
Is my perpetual aid