Memorial and Funeral services are sacred rituals by which we say goodbye. Saying goodbye is an important part of the grieving process.Though death has taken someone we love—and will inevitably take us as well—we are not alone. When families and congregations gather together, permission is given to feel all the emotions that accompany death and dying—sadness, grief, pain, relief, anger, and even numbness.

During the liturgy of a funeral or memorial service, we give thanks for the life, influence and memories of the one who has died. We acknowledge the grief with all its complexity and confusion. We remember God’s presence during difficult times, reaffirming that God’s promise of eternal live is for every person no matter what. We let go of our loved one, commending them to God’s care. And we take our first hesitant steps without them.


There is nothing that has to happen during the worship service, so be brave in asking for what you want and vetoing what you dislike. It can be as religious as you want, or simply nod to the holy mystery without claiming much of a particular religious tradition.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but funerals and memorial services are for the living not the dead. If your love one has left requests, take them seriously; though you are free in planning the service to be flexible with their wishes. Do what works best for you and your family. I am available to help you shape a service that honors the fullness of both life and loss.

Sample Service
For planning the memorial or funeral service, view a sample order of service, with suggestions for hymns, scripture passages and alternate readings.


At the end of the service there should be a sense that all is well or, at least, that it will be. The greatest gift that God gives us at such times of grief and loss is Christ's presence; in this way, we receive the truth that wherever our loved one has gone to it is a good and peaceful place.

Five Wishes
When making plans ahead of time, I passionately encourage people to use the resource Five Wishes produced through the non-profit Aging with Dignity. They now have an online version, also.

What to do when a loved one dies.
There are intense spiritual concerns at the time of death; there are also a variety of practical tasks. The tangible and intangible are linked. I suspect these tasks provide valuable, if aggravating, distraction from the initial shock and pain of death. For more on what to do read What to do when a loved one dies.