Suggestions for appropriate procedures
As soon as the elder knows that he is to have charge of the funeral service he should hasten to the home of the deceased to offer comfort to the bereaved. He should ascertain the wishes of the family concerning the funeral arrangements and carry out these wishes in a manner to give confidence, comfort and complete satisfaction. This service calls for good taste and tact. It is, in all probability, the time when the elder gets closest to his people when the heart strings are vibrant.
The simpler the burial service the better. Let the service be full of heart power and sincere sympathy. The elder does not speak as a judge in relation to the deceased, but rather as a comforter to the bereaved. Because the elder will probably address more people in the funeral, or memorial service, than on any other occasion, he should make ample, thoughtful preparation. A brief obituary may be read to bring before the assembly of relatives and friends a few essential facts regarding the deceased. A brief story of the life of the deceased, spoken in high appreciation of the good qualities of character exemplified, will often be very appropriate. In any event the elder will do well to make ample preparation for a funeral service that he may say and do that which is right.
It is a kindness for the elder to return with the family to the home of the deceased after the memorial service. Some of the most effective ministries of comfort and understanding can be offered at this time. The tension has been released; there is the satisfaction that all that is possible has been done to honor the loved one in dignity and order. The hearts of relatives are open for kindly suggestions from the elder. It will be possible for the elder to get acquainted with other members of the family and circle of friends. Lasting and helpful contacts will be possible.
The funeral or memorial service program
1. The order of service for a funeral should be simple.
2. Several factors must be taken into account;
a. It is wise to honor requests of the family wherever possible,
b. A service held in a home will usually be less formal and quite brief,
c. Local practice is usually a sufficient guide.
Suggested program one
2. Opening Scripture
5. Scripture Lesson
6. Pastoral Prayer
7. Funeral Message
Suggested program two
1. Instrumental Music (Hymns of Comfort)
2. Scripture Reading
3. Prayer of invocation
5. Scripture Selections
6. Pastoral Prayer
8. Obituary or Life Story
9. Memorial Address
12. Instrumental Music
Suggested program three
1. Hymns of Comfort
2. Scripture Reading
4. Funeral Message
Suggested grave side service
1. Scripture Reading
2. Poem, or reading of specific Bible passages
Spirit of Prophecy counsel
On a number of occasions Mrs. White speaks of meeting death. A few selected passages follow:
Jesus, the minister's model, wept in the face of death
"Christ was a close observer, noticing many things that others passed by. He was ever helpful, ever ready to speak words of hope and sympathy to the discouraged and the bereaved. He allowed the crowd to press round Him, and complained not, though sometimes He was almost lifted off His feet. When He met a funeral, He did not pass by indifferently. Sadness came over His face as He looked upon death, and He wept with the mourners." The Upward Look, p. 57.
Death, in the presence of the Lifegiver, is only temporary
"In a clear, authoritative voice the words are spoken, 'Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.' That voice pierces the ears of the dead. The young man opens his eyes. Jesus takes him by the hand, and lifts him up. His gaze falls upon her who has been weeping beside him, and mother and son unite in a long, clinging, joyous embrace. The multitude look on in silence, as if spellbound. 'There came a fear on all.' Hushed and reverent they stood for a little time, as if in the very presence of God. Then they 'glorified God, saying, that a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited His people.' The funeral train returned to Nain as a triumphal procession. 'And this rumor of Him went forth throughout all Judea, and throughout all the region round about'." Desire of Ages, p. 318.
A Christian's funeral can provide a powerful witness for Christianity
"When we called at night we found the young man very near his end. His mortal frame was racked with pain. We prayed with him, and his heavy breathing and groaning ceased while we were praying. The blessing of God rested down in that sick room, and we felt that angels were hovering around."
"He was relieved a little, yet knew that he was dying. He tried to have us understand that hope lightened up the future, and that to him it was not a dark uncertainty. We understood from broken sentences that he should have part in the first resurrection, and then be made immortal. Said he, 'Tell Bro. Bates that I will meet him then.' His faltering tongue often spoke that dear name, so precious to the dying Christian Jesus in whom all his hope of eternal life centered. He fell asleep in Jesus a few hours after we left." Spritual Gifts, vol. 1, p. 92.