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Going to the chapel and we’re going to get buried?

Going to the chapel and we’re going to get buried?


If you are in the throes of church-shopping for your dream wedding, take a moment to consider whether that same sanctuary would work for your funeral.

We reported a few days ago on the Revd Laurie Brock’s blog post offering advice to non-church members seeking a venue for their wedding.

Now, a new post on The Federalist offers pointers for choosing a church for your funeral. Hans Fiene, Lutheran pastor in Illinois and the creator of Lutheran Satire, advises,

If you are a typical five-year-old girl and are currently planning your dream wedding, please stop for a moment and plan your funeral first….

I know it sounds a bit morbid to encourage kindergarteners to contemplate their postmortem course of action, but, statistically speaking, it’s a better use of their time than wedding planning. If Time Magazine is right, only 75 percent of those five-year-old girls will turn into blushing brides one day. But 100 percent of them will eventually turn into dead people.

Fiene relates the unfortunate story of Vanessa Collier, whose funeral was turned away from the church where it was scheduled to take place “minutes” before the service was due to start.

If you don’t decide which venue you’d like to host your funeral before you die, that responsibility will fall to your loved ones with the additional challenge of having to see through the muck of their sorrow and figure out if that venue is comfortable celebrating your life the way you would have desired. Since your family would only have about seventy-two hours to answer that question, it’s quite possible for a lapse in communication to bring about an ugly situation like the recent one in Lakewood, Colorado, where Vanessa Collier’s funeral was cancelled just minutes before it was scheduled to start after the congregation hosting the funeral learned that she was a lesbian.

Fiene’s solution is to “Avoid A Funeral Standoff With Three Easy Questions,” those being,

1) Do you want a religious funeral service or a secular one?

2) Do you believe the stuff that’s taught by the church you have selected?

3) Do you belong to a church?

If so, Fiene’s advises, that might be a fine place to start (or stop) looking for your funereal destination.

Posted by Rosalind Hughes


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Melissa Holloway

And then there’s the bit about the sabbath for man, not man for the sabbath. I always fancied the same could be said for the BCP and its rubrics. But maybe not.

Are lay people supposed to be reading these comments anyhow? It seems pretty unholy to be commenting about grieving human beings with the boot and sun don’t shine quip.

Though I have seen social brokering going on in church – but first thing that comes to mind is the addition in liturgies for wealthy people who don’t necessarily show up to church but have just given a statue (and I sure hope some other cash) to stand up and say ‘we will’ or ‘we do’ and get the thing blessed with all of us watching.

Paul Woodrum

The deceased have never been a problem. It’s the living who sometimes deserve a boot, as the Pope recently so delicately put it, “where the sun don’t shine.”

Paul Woodrum

Even the rite of burial has its boundaries. From the BCP, p. 468, “Baptized Christians are properly buried from the church.” “The coffin is to be closed before the service, and it remains closed thereafter.” With considerable regret I refused to officiate at the funeral of a great aunt by marriage and lifelong active member of the Episcopal Church because her daughter insisted it take place in a funeral parlor as a matter of convenience. The church, located a few blocks away, would have meant moving the body.

I also, even after vesting, refused to officiate at another in a funeral home when, at the last minute the family refused to close the casket even though this had been agreed to ahead of time. The undertaker ended up doing the service. Mercy and compassion, yes, but not if one is uncomfortable with violating traditions of the church they have solemnly sworn to uphold.

Rod Gillis

My post was in response to one of the main points in the article, about canceling a funeral because of judgmental moralism with respect to the deceased.

Burying the dead is an act of mercy. We even have a rite in the Book of Occasional Services titled,For One Who Did not Profess The Christian Faith. However, details like the ones you mention, about venue ( funeral home) and maintaining the integrity of whatever liturgy is to be used are issues that go to values and value conflicts. If a family wishes to arrange a funeral in a private venue, and wants to insert a pastor into a ceremony that is a odds with the pastor’s integrity, or want to import things into the Rite of Christian burial that undermine our basic integrity, then that’s a different matter. At that point we have moved beyond acting out of mercy to brokering social arrangements.

Most pastors have had experiences around rites of passage where we have been misled or out right lied to so someone can get what they want. In those instances, all you can do is size up the context, not easy under the duress of the moment, and try an act out of your own values and what appears to be in the best interest of the majority. I try and not let other people’s lack of integrity make me crazy, but you know….

Rod Gillis

Burying the dead is an act of mercy and compassion.

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