Traditional Funeral Services
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All we need to do is say the word "funeral" and within microseconds, you have an image in your mind of what a funeral looks like. This mental image comes from many sources: the geographical place, culture and society in which we live; our faith; our life experience. Obviously then, a traditional funeral service in Doylestown would look very different from one held in Tanzania; there are even significant differences between traditional funerals held in ethnically and/or geographically diverse regions of North America.
Yet, despite the differences, these funeral services have much in common. We invite you to read further to learn the really simple answer to the question "what is a funeral?" Should you have questions about what you read here, we encourage you to call us. One of our funeral professionals will be delighted to explore the commonalities behind the wide spectrum of traditional funeral services seen around the world.
What is a Funeral?
No matter where it's held, a funeral is a structured ceremony, with a beginning, middle and end. Each is intended to engage the living participants in activities which will transform their status within the community, provide mourners with a collective grieving experience, and celebrate a life lived. It's a socially-acceptable way for members of a community to re-affirm and express their social attachments.
Anthropologists label a funeral as a rite of passage, which affects everyone involved–including the deceased. His or her social status changes dramatically, from a living contributing member of the community to one whose contributions are in the past, and relegated to memory. But the status of each of the survivors—the immediate family most especially—has also changed. In fact, the funeral service can be the start of a defined period of mourning for bereaved family members, marking this transition in a uniquely identifiable way.
It could be said then, the focus of a funeral—no matter where, no matter when—lies in acknowledging change. And without doubt, human beings (as individuals and as a community) have trouble dealing with profound changes like the death of an integral member of the group. When you take this perspective, it becomes easier to understand the importance of ceremonially acknowledging the tear in the social fabric and the symbolic restoration of its integrity.
The 4 Components of a Traditional Funeral Service
A traditional funeral service includes:
1. Visitation: This is often called a viewing or a wake. Guests come to pay their respects to the deceased by viewing their casketed body and spending time with the grieving family. A visitation can occur at any time before the funeral service.
2. Funeral Service: This event commonly takes place at the funeral home, a church, or at the graveside. It can include music, the reading of literary or religious passages, a eulogy, prayer, and the singing of hymns.
3. Committal Service: If the family plans to bury the deceased, this stage involves the vehicle procession to the cemetery.
4. Funeral Reception: Many choose to host this post-service gathering (or repast) at a reception hall. This is considered a time to share memories, laughter, and support.
A funeral service, whether traditional or more modern (memorial service or celebration-of-life
), has two functions: to acknowledge the death and lifetime achievements of an individual and to bring grieving family members and friends together in support of one another during this difficult time.
If you are interested in making funeral arrangements for a loved one, we invite you to call us to begin.
Breakdown of a Christian Funeral Service
A Christian funeral follows the 4 parts we already touched on above: the visitation, funeral service, committal service and finally the funeral reception.The funeral service part is where most of the specific Christian rituals occur. The funeral service takes the form of any other Christian mass with a couple nuances. The main purpose of a Christian funeral service is to pray for the soul of the deceased, and to provide support to the grieving family.
The funeral service starts with guests entering the church or chapel and taking their seats. It is recommended that guests arrive about 15-20 minutes prior to the start of the service. There is then a small procession down the main aisle of the church by the immediate family and the pallbearers who are carrying the casket. The casket will generally be placed in front of the altar, and the immediate family and pallbearers will sit at the very front. Once everyone has gathered together, the priest will give an opening statement that is either a prayer or a statement of support for the family, or a combination of both. After the opening statement, the mass officially begins. A traditional funeral service typically includes scripture readings from the Bible, a homily from the priest, prayers, and hymns. A homily or sermon is a speech given by the priest after scripture has been read. The Priest will provide insight into the scripture readings and will relate it to the life of the deceased in some manner. Generally, the family will choose close relatives or friends to say the prayers and the scripture readings. The funeral service often concludes with the delivery of the eulogy. The eulogy usually covers the deceased’s life, his/her values, personality, accomplishments, etc.
Since there are so many sects of Christianity there will be small differences between a catholic funeral compared to a Lutheran funeral, but for the most part the funeral rituals are the same.
Funeral Services in Doylestown
For families and individuals living in Doylestown (as elsewhere in the nation), a funeral service can mean many things. Some fall back on what is commonly called a "traditional funeral service"; others see that same traditional service as an emotionally unfulfilling event. Fortunately, thanks to a number of unique social forces, there are alternatives. Today, end-of-life commemorative services range from the traditional funeral, to a memorial service and the increasingly popular celebrations-of-life. If you have yet to realize the immense value of such a collective acknowledgement of loss, reach out to us. Call to speak with one of our experienced funeral service professionals so we can help you make an informed decision for your loved one.
Huntington, Richard and Peter Metcalf, Celebrations of Death: The Anthropology of Mortuary Ritual, Cambridge University Press, 1979
Rostad, Curtis, "The Basics of Funeral Service", Indiana Funeral Directors Association, 2014