Methodist Funeral Traditions

Jun 17, 2010 | 2 comments

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

You can read about two examples of Methodist memorial services from the 2010 30 Funerals in 30 Days Challenge: Katherine Spates Buell and Herb Bischoff.

There are about twenty-three separate Methodist denominations in the United States, with approximately 8.5 million adherents.

A pastor officiates the funeral service, which may include hymns, a homily, and a eulogy by a close friend or family member. A program will indicate the order of the ceremony. Readings may come from a variety of sources.

Guests should attend interment. The pastor recites prayers at the graveside and the body is committed to the earth. If the body has been cremated before the service, the cremains are buried, or put in a vault, or committed to the sea. Military or fraternal rites may be part of the graveside service.

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 two to three days. The service may be held in the church of the deceased or a funeral home.

Do’s and Don’ts: Sign the guest book. Ushers will advise where to sit. If arriving late, enter quietly. It is not appropriate to take pictures or record the service (both audio and video). When viewing the body, which is optional, observe silently and somberly.

Interment: Guests should attend. The pastor recites prayers at the graveside and the body is committed to the ground. If the body has been cremated before the service, the ashes are either buried or put in a vault.

Post-Event Reception: It is appropriate to visit the bereaved at home after the funeral at a mutually convenient time, staying for about 30 to 45 minutes. Food will probably not be served. No religious services are held in the home.

Gifts: Upon learning about the death, telephone or visit the bereaved. It is appropriate to send flowers or food to the family. Charitable contributions in memory of the deceased are also an option. The preferred charity may be mentioned in the obituary.

Mourning period: How long a mourner stays away from work or socializing is entirely at the discretion of the bereaved.

Mourning customs: There may be a service commemorating the deceased to observe the anniversary of the death.

Notes: Methodist funerals have as their purposes: 1) expressing grief and comforting one another in our bereavement; 2) celebrating the life of the deceased; and 3) affirming faith in life with God after death.

This information is included in A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die by Gail Rubin, author of The Family Plot Blog. The book, which includes funeral traditions for many major faiths, is available in print and ebook formats at, and at

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