“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.”
This ancient prayer from the Psalms reminds us of the limited span of our life – and in that knowledge asks that we respond with wisdom. By reflection on our own mortality and death, we come to see in each day the opportunity to respond to God, making the most of each moment while knowing that beyond this life, the Gospels and the Creeds teach us to expect a life that is more than we can ask or imagine.
Reflection on our own mortality and death can also spur us to take care of the details and responsibilities of our life, to spare our families and friends from making decisions or second guessing our own desires. This form allows you to express your preferences among the options provided in the Prayer Book services. This will be a helpful guide to family, clergy and parish staff when the time comes to actually prepare a service that both expresses the Church’s faith and reflects your life and experience.
There are several other aspects of preparation that need to be mentioned. Obviously a will provides you with the opportunity to use wealth and possessions to accomplish some good. Christian faith reminds us regularly that our possession of any object is only temporary, that we hold whatever we possess as stewards of God’s gifts. I would urge you to use your will to provide for those who are dependent on you and to strengthen and expand the Church’s ministry and other institutions or charities that are important to you. I, or a member of the Finance Team, would be happy to discuss any bequests or gifts you plan on making to St. Stephen’s at any time. A healthy parish endowment will insure the on-going ministry of the parish in the years ahead and would also allow us to use the income to witness to the Gospel by meeting human needs around us.
Along with a will, many people choose to provide a living will that deals with medical questions before they arise. Others appoint someone with medical power of attorney, enabling that person to make decisions on their behalf. To do so relieves family and close friends of a great burden. For those without an obvious next of kin, or where family is not available to fill this role, such a plan is essential.
As you use this form to express your preferences in terms of the liturgical rites that mark your passage from this mortal life to life eternal, I urge you to reflect on other acts of preparation you might need to make. In the Great Litany, we pray that we may be delivered from dying “suddenly and un-prepared”. The question of sudden may not be in our hands, but through our prayers, attention to our spiritual lives, and by attending to our responsibilities, we can stand prepared. If I can be of any help with any of the questions that such reflection and work generate, please do not hesitate to call.
The Rev. Kim E. Rossi
Funeral Services at St. Stephen’s
We are never prepared for the emotional shock and the many responsibilities that come when a loved one dies. The Church is here to help you through this time of grief by offering comfort through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is, above all, a message of hope and resurrection. In addition, the community of St. Stephen’s is here to help with the decisions, obligations, and religious services so important to the healing process.
When someone dies, the first person to call is your doctor. Next comes the priest. You are encouraged to call the priest anytime of day or night. The priest will come to wherever you are to offer spiritual support and practical guidance. This will include prayer with the family, calling a mortician, and deciding on the time and place for the funeral, and determining the details for cremation or burial.
Planning the Funeral
Funerals for church members are customarily held in the church. “Calling hours,” enabling friends to visit the family informally the night before the funeral, may be offered. While these gatherings may be held in a funeral home, they may also take place in the church itself. At St. Stephen’s we are pleased to offer this option as an alternative. The body of the deceased may or may not be present and a brief service of vigil is a fitting way to close the time together.
The funeral service is planned from the wealth of material in the Book of Common Prayer and The Hymnal 1982 and Wonder, Love, and Praise. The priest will work with the family to determine the nature of the service and to choose appropriate Scripture readings. The Episcopal liturgy emphasizes the resurrection of Christ and the universal hopefulness of Christian belief.
Music is often part of the funeral service. The priest or parish organist will work with you to select appropriate musical selections and hymns.
Normally the homily is based on a favorite passage from the New Testament and emphasizes the comforts of Christ rather than the attributes of the deceased person. Occasionally, a brief remembrance may be offered by someone close to the departed.
The Holy Eucharist is generally celebrated at funeral services but this is at the family’s discretion in consultation with the priest. At St. Stephen’s Church we welcome all who wish to be strengthened though the body and blood of Jesus Christ, regardless of denomination or age, to receive Communion.
If the body is present, the coffin is closed and covered with a funeral pall (a white cloth signifying new life through the Resurrection). If ashes are present, the urn is covered with a white cloth.
Eulogies or remembrances by many friends and family members are not encouraged. If one or two people would like to read prepared remarks, that may be worked out with the officiating priest. The remarks should be no more than three minutes in duration.
If the family would like altar flowers, an outside florist is engaged by the family or other memorial flowers may be added. Two arrangements, placed on either side of the altar, are normative. Other arrangements may also be placed in the narthex, within reason and by arrangements with the priest. Flowers may be left for the following Sunday with a note indicating the memorial in memory of the deceased.
Pictures of the Deceased
It’s often very moving as well as healing to display pictures of a deceased loved one. While this is encouraged, no pictures will be displayed in the worship space during the liturgy. Pictures are most appropriate at a vigil the evening before or at the entrance to the church.
Bulletins will be printed by the parish office in consultation with priest to reflect the liturgy and allow worshippers to participate.
What about Cremation?
The Episcopal Church approves cremation as well as burial of the body
It is understood that the Parish Organist is to play for all services and that if a guest organist is requested, the Parish Organist is to be compensated for the full amount. If the services of a soloist or instrumentalist are desired, these arrangements should be made by the family in consultation with the Priest and Organist. If funeral arrangements are made through a local Funeral Home, most often fees are included in those arrangements. Please check with your Funeral Director to be sure. If the Church Sexton services are necessary, the fee of $75.00 is required and a check should be made out to St. Stephen’s Church.
Funeral Hymns & Music
Music, like liturgy itself, helps us express our emotions in ways that transcend words. Hymns in particular are often a source of comfort and the Anglican tradition has many beautiful and appropriate hymns for funerals. Funeral music is always chosen in consultation with the priest and/or parish organist but selecting hymns is often a component of healing.
Some criteria to consider include: favorite hymns, texts that express the hope and joy of the resurrection, and whether or not it is known to the congregation.
A soloist – vocal or instrumental – may be engaged. Additional fees for such, are the responsibility of the family and any accompaniment by the Parish Organist that is necessary and/or that may result in additional practice time or scheduled rehearsals, may result in additional fees for the Parish Organist. There will be no recorded music during the liturgy.