Religious Customs around Funerals and Death – An Evangelical Christian Perspective
Pastor Robin Bathurst
Campsie Community Church
Basic Belief – Life after death or similar views?
Death is one of the most important events in the Christian religion, as it is the end of a person’s earthly life and the beginning of eternal life in heaven. To be in God’s presence forever, in perfect peace and love and joy and where there is no sin, no pain, no suffering. According to the Bible, each person possesses a soul that leaves a person’s body at death and goes to an afterlife in heaven or hell. Heaven is believed to be a gift from God to those who have repented of their sins and believed in the Lord Jesus, trusting him as their Lord and Saviour.
Evangelical Protestant Christians do not believe in the existence of a middle state between heaven and hell called purgatory.
Pre-death – Any last rites or special religious prayers (or customs) which are available when someone is about to pass?
It is customary for a pastor to visit the ill or dying person to pray and read the Holy Scriptures. The purpose of visiting those who are near death and praying with them is to offer the opportunity to repent of all known sins and prepare the dying person for the afterlife in heaven.
Generally, funerals are conducted within 5 days of death, ensuring that family and guests have the opportunity to attend the funeral service.
Remains casket open/closed?
No particular rules on whether the casket remains open or closed during the funeral service. This preference depends on the wishes of the family.
Interment: Burial vs Cremations?
Christians were traditionally buried, although increasing today, many Christians are cremated. Funeral services for Christians are typically held in the church and/or the graveside, or at the crematorium. During most Christian funerals, there is a sermon, prayer, reading of Scripture and singing of hymns. It is also common for a eulogy, or eulogies, to be delivered by family members or close friends. A Wake is sometimes held prior to the start of a funeral service. This is a time when close family members come together to view the body and offer support to one another in their time of loss.
Embalming & Mortuary Care aspects?
Regarding Mortuary Care or Embalming practices, this is a family decision and presents no problems from a Christian religious perspective
Christian Hymn Selection Messages of Hope or Eulogies?
Families are always encouraged to discuss with the minister if any guidance is required.
Some Popular hymns include:
How great thou art
All things bright and beautiful
The Lord is my shepherd
Alternatively, a selection of modern hymns, or similarly a piece of music which has meaning to the departed or family is also appropriate.
Messages of Hope:
John 14:1-6 In my Father’s house are many rooms
Revelation 21:2-7 Behold, I make all things new
Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.
Psalm 139 Lord, you have searched me out, and known me
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 For everything there is a season
A Typical Service includes:
Commencement of the service, welcome all members of Family and those in attendance,
Acknowledging and celebrating the life of the departed, looking to reflect on the contribution and impact his or her life has had on the family and friends, and in the wider community.
The Pastor will bring a message from the Bible and Scriptures are always read to bring comfort and assurance to the family and friends.