Quaker funerals: community and contribution
6 April 2018 by Paul Parker
Find out about Quaker funerals and other ways to celebrate the lives of those who have died in our communities.
Could this be the path to a new sense of unity, the community of those who had known pain, and thence had found depth, so that creeds and traditions became but signposts to an acceptance of sadness and an entry into a depth where we found harmony with each other? Was this the way forward to a deeper unity with people of other religions or indeed of none? Perhaps we could start with the simple discovery that words divide and sadness unites
Robert Tod, 1989 Quaker faith & practice 22.82
Funerals may be held at a Quaker meeting house, at a crematorium, or a graveside. Funerals may therefore be held at a graveside in a Quaker burial ground. A Quaker funeral could also be held at a graveside in another burial ground, such as a natural burial ground.
Normally there would be two Friends who are elders for a funeral or memorial meeting. Quaker Meetings should think about the best people to do this.
General information about Quaker funerals and memorial meetings can be found in chapter 17 of Quaker faith & practice (offsite link).
Quaker Social Action has a guide (offsite link) has funeral guidance as part of it's Down to Earth project with offers advice on affordable funerals.
The National Association of Funeral Directors' website give practical guidance on arranging and holding funerals.
Quakers often hold memorial meetings for Friends who have died sometime after their funeral. There is no set period between death and a memorial meeting and this often allows the rawness of death to have passed allowing a celebration of an individual's life to take place at a memorial meeting.
However, there is also great comfort in sharing together when the loss is new. Try to focus on the needs and wishes of those who were closest to the person who died. It may be helpful to arrange a formal or informal time to share memories and come together in grief, using suitable technology.
An option that many Quakers are embracing is use of on-line memorial or tribute pages. Britain Yearly Meeting has information about how to set up a memorial page for Friends. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Many faith and other groups have made suggestions about ways to come together when people cannot gather in person. Some links are below – there are many others.
There is advice and guidance available in Funerals and Memorial Meetings: Volume 2 of the Eldership and Oversight handbook series. It gives an outline to planning a funeral or memorial meeting and step-by-step guidance including helpful things to remember.
Supporting bereaved Friends is always a real challenge and one that meetings should consider carefully. Bearing in mind that not everyone's needs are the same, think about the following:
We all need to help support those in our Quaker community who have responsibility for conducting funerals. Help Friends with eldership and pastoral responsibility by having a conversation with them about your wishes or by filling in the form below. It is particularly important in case arrangements need to be made by a person not known to an individual who has died or their family.
It is a good idea to make other preparations for death and incapacity. This includes having an up-to-date will, financial planning, living wills and organ donation wishes. Further information on these matters can be found on the Money Saving Expert website. The Fundraising Team can also give guidance on leaving a legacy in your will for Quaker Work.
6 April 2018 by Paul Parker