Lutheran Funeral Traditions

Jun 13, 2010 | 0 comments

This post highlights general funeral practices for the Lutheran Church. The actual practices of Lutheran individuals, families, and congregations may vary.

For two examples of Lutheran memorial services, read these stories from the 30 Funerals in 30 Days Challenge for Carol Ann Exley and Gail Shirley.

Treatment of the body: The body may be viewed, either at a visitation event at the funeral home and/or during the funeral. Embalming and cremation are accepted.

Funeral or memorial services: Funerals usually take place within three days. The service may be held in the church of the deceased or a funeral home and last about 30 minutes. A pastor performs the service. Either a program will indicate the order of the ceremony or the pastor will make periodic announcements. The ceremony may include Holy Communion for all Christian attendees. Books used may include the Lutheran Book of Worship, The Lutheran Hymnal, or Lutheran Worship.

Do’s and Don’ts: Sign the guest book. Ushers will advise where to sit. If arriving late, do not enter during the procession or prayers. It is not appropriate to take pictures or record the service (both audio and video). Christians are expected to stand, kneel, read prayers aloud and sing with those present. Non-Christians are expected to stand with the congregation. If choosing not to kneel, remain seated. When viewing the body, which is optional, observe silently and move on. Express your condolences to the family. It is appropriate to visit the bereaved at home after the funeral.

Interment: Guests should attend. The casket is carried to the grave, and the pastor leads a brief service with readings and prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer. The pastor blesses the earth placed on the casket and blesses those gathered at the graveside.

Post-Event Reception: It is appropriate to visit the home of the bereaved after the funeral. If food is served, wait for the saying of grace before eating. It would be impolite not to eat, unless you have dietary restrictions. There may be alcoholic beverages, depending on the family’s custom. No religious services are held in the home.

Gifts: Upon learning about the death, telephone, visit or send a note to the bereaved offering your sympathy and expressing your care and love. It is appropriate to send flowers or food unless the family expresses otherwise. A charitable contribution made in the memory of the deceased is also appropriate. The family will often announce the preferred charity through the funeral home or funeral worship folder.

Mourning period: A mourner might return to work after several days and return to a normal social schedule after several weeks.

Mourning customs: There are no specific Lutheran mourning customs. Some congregations remember the first year anniversary of the death in prayers in church.

Notes: Local social customs govern, but conservative clothing and dark, somber colors are recommended.

For more details on this religion’s history, beliefs, and funeral practices, you may wish to consult this excellent resource: The Perfect Stranger’s Guide to Funerals and Grieving Practices: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People’s Religious Ceremonies (SkyLight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, VT), or visit

Please post a comment to let me know if you find this information helpful, or if there are specific details you were looking for that this post did not address.

A Good Goodbye