Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting. You only are immortal, the creator and maker of humankind; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and to earth shall we return. For so did you ordain when you created me, saying, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. -Book of Common Prayer
The Episcopal Church has an absolutely beautiful burial liturgy, available to everyone. It doesn’t matter who they are, whether they
were faithful churchgoers or not. It doesn’t matter how they died, it doesn’t matter how much money they had. All are given dignity. All are escorted out of this world with beauty and dignity and grace.
The service itself is a celebration of the life of the one who died, while still leaving space for grief and sorrow. We believe that all people are a gift from our Creator, and all people are received into the arms of our loving God when they die. That is why the church is decorated in the traditional Easter white, and the priest wears white. The Paschal candle lit at baptism is also lit at funerals, tying together the cycle of life and death and life again.
If you would like to arrange for a funeral for someone, please contact the Rev. Watkins. She will gently work with you to honor the life of the one you loved in the most appropriate way. Perhaps that means a funeral or memorial service at the church, at another location, or something simple at the graveside or where cremains are distributed. She welcomes being of use even if there is no connection to St. Mary’s. And she also welcomes crafting a service for miscarriage and other experiences of infertility and loss.
If you wish to hold a gathering for family and friends, but you think a church funeral just doesn’t feel appropriate, it is also an option to rent the meeting room at St Mary’s. The room has comfortable sofas, much natural light, and a small tea kitchen for providing simple refreshments Our facility is handicap accessible. For more information on this possibility, contact the church office.
In the warmer months, smaller services can be held in our beautiful garden courtyard. Present there is a granite memorial wall, on which the names of those whose ashes are buried in our memorial garden. If you are interested in purchasing such a spot on the memorial wall and/or having cremains buried in the garden, a $1,000 donation will be requested, which ensures that the garden will be maintained.
There was a time in the church’s life when many women would work together hosting funeral lunches, but for the most part those days are over. If you are interested in hosting a luncheon after a funeral, you may call in a caterer to the St Mary’s facility. We have the name of a really good one who is used to our space, if you need a referral. Another option that often works well is hosting a luncheon at a local restaurant.
Most people wonder, but are sensitive about asking, the costs for doing a funeral. A donation is usually given to the priest who facilitates the service, and another to the preacher if that is not the same person. The amount is usually $200-$300 or so. The Rev. Watkins chooses to put that donation into her discretionary account, which she is free to give away to people in need or to cover an expense not in the church budget. It is important to her that you know she personally does not benefit from officiating this Sacrament. The church musician earns around $200, and if extra musicians or soloists are needed they get paid something as well. Cleaning fees for the church are usually $60. It’s a good idea to have someone familiar with our system making sure the sound is on and working well, that is $50. Typically the funeral home will ask these questions, adjust for these expenses in what they charge, and then write and distribute the checks to us. Most find that easier, but writing checks directly to the church is fine as well.
Much of the funeral planning can be done in advance, something that the Rev. Watkins encourages. What she has come to understand is that a family can develop much concern trying to put together a funeral that the deceased would have liked. The family can struggle over music and scripture readings and locations for burial. The instances when these choices have already been made by the one who has died brings great relief to the family and helps them in their grief.
The Rev. Watkins would be happy to join you for a cup of coffee, or meet with you in her office, to help in advance funeral planning.
Advance preparation can be helpful in more than just funeral planning. Many times families are placed in the situation of having to make life support decisions for someone who has never told them what their wishes might be. The angst this causes a family could be greatly diminished if they had the assurance that they were making the decision their loved one would want them to make. The best way to communicate what your wishes might be is by discussing it as an entire family. It is also advisable to choose someone who will make those decisions legally, and to communicate your choice with your whole family, preferably in writing.
‘Aging With Dignity’ is an organization that publishes a booklet called ‘5 Wishes’, which the Rev. Watkins has used with many people. Although these conversations are never easy, this publication helps a great deal by asking you to indicate:
- which person you want to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them.
- the kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want.
- how comfortable you want to be.
- how you want people to treat you.
- what you want your loved ones to know.
When signed in front of witnesses, this serves as a legal document, a form of ‘living will’. You can order a copy of this booklet through the Aging With Dignity website, or can have the church office send you one. When completed, make some copies for your family members, especially the one you’ve chosen to make decisions for you. Give a copy to Rev. Watkins, and another to your primary physician.
We hope this website has been helpful to you. For any other questions you may have, or to speak with the Rev. Watkins about any of the things mentioned here, please feel free to call. (651-646-6175)
Most merciful God,
whose wisdom is beyond our understanding:
Deal graciously with (insert names) in their grief.
Surround them with your love,
that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss,
but have confidence in your goodness,
and strength to meet the days to come;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
– Book of Common Prayer