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Reviews | Leading a Funeral Service

Leading a Funeral Service

Norman Fitchett

Booklet

16 pages

Leading a Funeral Service

The Christadelphian review (from July 2014)

Leading a Funeral Service

BROTHER Norman Fitchett’s booklet, Leading a Funeral Service provides a helpful and practical guide to any brother called upon to take such a service, particularly if he hasn’t done so before. I personally used it a few months ago, when I was asked to take the funeral service of a sister I knew, this being the first occasion I had taken one. With the emotion of the moment, and with relatively little time to prepare, the guide proved to be invaluable in setting out a framework for the service and providing helpful suggestions about my role, both before, during and after the service.

The guide begins by setting out the differing circumstances which may exist regarding the person who has died – an elderly brother or sister, a younger brother or sister, a child of a brother and sister, someone not of the faith (perhaps a relative of a brother or sister and not baptized), or someone out of fellowship. Whether or not you would be willing to conduct some of these is down to personal conscience. Brother Norman then provides helpful comments about these circumstances.

In taking a funeral service, you must show that you share the sorrow of the family and congregation and their sense of loss but, above all, remain in control of the occasion. You must be prepared to be in control of yourself, even in the face of family grief.

Taking the service

Brother Norman recommends that the tone be a suitable balance of celebration of the person’s life and a mournful contemplation of death. The very cause for celebration is the conviction and faith shown by the brother or sister now sleeping. Suitable Bible verses, hymns and prayers will all convey what the person stood for, how it enriched and motivated their life and how our own lives are governed by the same principles of belief and conduct. These words in themselves will aptly also provide a preaching opportunity for non-believers attending the service.

Brother Norman then summarises the personal demands upon a brother leading a funeral service, which are much more than just the service itself. These are both emotional and practical, but you should above all regard what you have been called to do as a blessing and privilege, rather than a burden and responsibility. He sets out the brother’s duties before the service – both in terms of practicalities to assist the family and also in preparation for the service itself. He makes a helpful suggestion – one which I heeded and was very thankful for – to write out your own text for the service as completely as possible, because you may become emotional. The booklet provides a guide for the order of service, although of course this can be tailored to suit the wishes of individuals or families. Brother Norman provides helpful wording and suggestions for committals at both a graveside and at a crematorium. He also lists a number of Bible passages that might be suitable for the service and committal.

In summary, I found this guide extremely helpful in preparing for a funeral service. In the midst of grief and distress, it is not easy to remain the voice of calm and control, whilst acting as liaison between all the different parties, continuing your normal daily work and family routine, and having to do all of this at relatively short notice. By using Brother Norman’s guide as a framework I found that all the questions I had were answered and that I was well prepared for the task ahead. Laying a dear brother or sister to rest is a blessing and a privilege, as their next waking moment will be at the resurrection, and we can all reflect upon, and learn from, such experiences.

Stephen Whitehouse

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