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Funeral Guidelines

We welcome your inquiry concerning funeral services at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. The information below presents our policies and procedures for a funeral in The Episcopal Church tradition. You are encouraged to read it carefully, and if you have questions or are interested in arranging a funeral at St. Thomas, please call the parish office at 252-923-9141.

When Death Occurs
If at all possible, a clergy person should be notified when a person is near death in order that the ministrations of the Church may be provided. When death occurs, the parish office should be called at once. All arrangements for the funeral must be made only in consultation with the Rector.

The Funeral Service
The funeral service is an Easter liturgy. It finds all its meaning in the resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too, shall be raised. The liturgy, therefore, is characterized by joy, in the certainty that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). This joy, however, does not make human grief un-Christian. So, while we rejoice that the one we love has entered into the nearer presence of our Lord, we join in sorrow and sympathy with those who mourn (Book of Common Prayer, pg. 507).

Since the Episcopal funeral service is a service of worship, it is properly held in a church, unless considerations of space prohibit. It is virtually impossible to carry out the worship of the Church in a funeral home, because our services assume the presence of an altar with its sacred vessels, linens, vestments, Prayer Books, and other appurtenances of worship, which are not available in a funeral chapel, or are transported there only with great inconvenience.
It does not matter whether the deceased was a member of the Church or not, or whether the survivors are members. The Church and its services are available to all. St. Thomas Episcopal Church uses the Book of Common Prayer for its funeral services. The Holy Eucharist is customarily celebrated at funerals. All baptized Christians are invited to receive Holy Communion.
Though eulogies, or remembrances, are not a part of our funeral liturgy, we understand that they can play an important role in comforting those who are grieving. Therefore we do allow up to 2 people to deliver brief remembrances of the deceased. Each should be no more than 3-5 minutes, and not be a detailed litany of life achievements. Rather they should tell a story, or paint in broad strokes a picture of the joy of life and the Christian hope in death. This will be followed by a brief homily delivered by the officiating priest.

Funeral Policies

Only the Rector is authorized to make funeral plans with the family and perform the funeral service. The Rector has complete authority over the contents and conduct of the service, authorizes the date and time of service, and which church property space may be used. No funeral services will be conducted at the church when the Rector is unavailable or out of town, or if it conflicts with other previously scheduled church events. Permission to use another Episcopal priest to conduct the service in the absence of the Rector is granted solely by the Rector.

The church will provide printed programs to aid the congregants in following the service. The seating capacity in the church is around 100 with overflow in the Noe Building.

Pall for the Coffin
The coffin is to be closed before the service and it remains closed thereafter. A white pall to cover the coffin during the service in the church is provided by the church. This reminds us of the equality of all people before God. In the case of a veteran of the United States military, the coffin may be covered at the burial site by an American flag, if desired. Military funeral ceremonies are appropriately conducted outside the church or at the burial site.

The Episcopal Church has no objection to cremation. The cremation may take place after the service or beforehand. The ashes may be present at the service, and blessed during the Commendation, if desired.

The Columbarium of St. Thomas is open to all members of our parish family as a final resting place for cremated remains. The cost of interment is a donation of $600, which will include the cost of the burial niche. An application for interment and the policy for burial in the Columbarium can be picked up in the parish office or by speaking with clergy.

The music for the funeral or memorial service should be taken from hymnals and other sources approved by The Episcopal Church for use in worship services. More importantly, music selections should be appropriate for a funeral or memorial service. Recorded music is not permitted.

The selection of all music for the service is done in consultation with the clergy. St. Thomas Organist will play at all funerals or memorials with music. There is a fee for her services. Musicians requested by the family, in addition to the Organist, are welcome to participate in the service. However, they and their music selections must be approved by the Rector.

Flowers and Memorial Table
Inside the church, flowers at a church funeral are usually displayed as on Sundays, on the vase stands behind the Altar. Flowers are not to be placed on the coffin. A memorial table may be set up in the narthex and the church allows a small memorial table in the front on the church, when there is no coffin or cremated remains present. The items in the church are limited to pictures and appropriate items of remembrance.

We recommend Babe’s Florist in Pantego 252-943-3327

“The Minister of the Congregation is directed to instruct the people, from time to time, about the duty of Christian parents to make prudent provision for the well-being of their families, and of all persons to make wills, while they are in health, arranging for the disposal of their temporal goods, not neglecting, if they are able, to leave bequests for religious and charitable uses” (Book of Common Prayer, pg. 445) Please don’t forget St. Thomas in your will! Clergy is willing to talk to you about the different options available for you to leave a legacy at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. A “Living Will” (Advanced Care Directives) would be helpful to the doctor and to family members should one become unable to make decisions for oneself.
Information regarding end-of-life issues can be obtained from the clergy.

Funeral Service Honorariums & Fees (Suggested)
When practical it is expected that all fees and honorariums will be paid prior to the funeral service. There is no fee for use of the church or Noe Building. The priest’s honorarium should be paid in cash or check payable to the priest. The honorarium for the Organist should be paid directly to them.

There is no charge for use of the church or Noe Building. Please contact the Parish Office for honorarium details.

Lessons for Burial of the Dead
Appropriate lessons are suggested as follows (from the BCP, pp 494-495).

At the burial of a child, the passages from Lamentations, 1 John, and John 6, together with Psalm 23, are recommended.
From the Old Testament
Isaiah 25:6-9 (He will swallow up death for ever)
Isaiah 61:1-3 (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)

A suitable psalm, hymn, or canticle may follow. The following Psalms are appropriate: 42:1-7, 46, 90:1-12, 121, 130, 139:1-11.

From the New Testament
Revelation 7:9-17 (God will wipe away every tear)
Revelation 21:2-7 (Behold, I make all things new)
A suitable psalm, hymn, or canticle may follow. The following Psalms are appropriate: 23, 27, 106:1-5, 116.

The Gospel
John 5:24-27 (He who believes has everlasting life)
John 6:37-40 (All that the Father gives me will come to you) 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)

Suggested Hymns for the Burial of the Dead (from the Hymnal 1982)

357 Jesus, Son of Mary (Communion)
671 Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
688 A mighty fortress is our God
665 All my hope on God is founded
208 Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! The strife is o’er
287 For all the saints, who from their labors rest
379 God is Love, let heaven adore him
690 Guide me, O thou great Jehovah
637 How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord – also 636
517 How lovely is thy dwelling place
620 Jerusalem, my happy home
680 O God, our help in ages past
448 O love, how deep, how broad, how high
455 O Love of God, how strong and true
388 O worship the King, all glorious above!
373 Praise the Lord! Ye heavens adore him
685 Rock of ages, cleft for me
492 Sing, ye faithful, sing with gladness
645 The King of love my shepherd is
618 Ye watchers and ye holy ones

The Food Groups will provide luncheon for family and out of town guests in the Noe Building. Alternatively, a meal can be delivered to your home. Please contact the Parish Office for details and contact information about our Food Groups.