Over the past several months, I’ve played for a number of non-Episcopal funerals at off-site locations. I’m always willing to play for these extra services, and my student loan debt appreciates the help. At the most recent one, I seemed to have been the only one involved with the service who had any concern for order and planning. At times, I wanted to just yell out, “Let’s just get out the Book of Common Prayer and go with it!” However, I kept quiet and made sure that I was prepared with a rousing introduction for I come to the garden alone. At many of these funerals I’m sitting there playing the electronic keyboard just a few feet from the open casket, complete with the pink lights shining on the body so as to soften the look.

 I recall my own confirmation class in college. I was impressed as the priest explained to us details of the Episcopal funeral service. Numerous times, I’ve been present in an Episcopal church when a coffin is brought in prior to the funeral. And always, the first thing that was done at the back of the church was to place a funeral pall over the casket. As my confirmation teacher explained, we are all equal in the eyes of God – whether one is worth millions and can afford to have the most luxurious casket, or is being buried in the cheapest version of a McCoffin that is available – the pall is placed on top of the casket completely concealing it for the liturgy in the church. Thus, at death we are all equal in the Church’s eyes.

 Eulogies are rare in the Episcopal service as well. At some of these non-Episcopal funerals, I’ve wondered what comfort is to be found in numerous recountings of a person’s life. No one seems encouraged or comforted to me. And, often people are too upset to be able to speak clearly, despite their good intentions.

 Our funerals are Easter liturgies – we bring out the Paschal candle reminding us of Christ’s triumph over death, and the first words uttered by the priest at our services are “I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord. Whoever has faith in me shall have life, even though he die.” We pray for those who departed, that God will assist them in their unending celebration in God’s presence. We pray for those who struggle with the loss, that they may find comfort and love from those around them. We recall that Jesus wept when Lazarus died, that the repenting thief was granted entrance to heaven, and that all of the departed join in our prayers. There’s not really much that could be said that’s stronger than that!

 Have you thought about your funeral? What hymns you’d like to have? Or, in my case, the hymns I absolutely, most certainly do not want sung at my service. When you have a moment, perhaps give this all some thought. At Christ Church, we’ve even tried to help make it easy for you. By going to this page (click here) you can find forms which can assist you in planning your service. We keep those on file that are given to us (though it would be wise for you to keep a copy for yourself). In the midst of the chaos surrounding death, I know families are often thankful when the service has been planned – it’s one less thing they have to handle.