At yesterday’s talk to a group of legal guardians about religion and culture regarding funerals, I spoke about Catholic, Greek Orthodox, other Christian denominations, Jewish, Muslim and Native American traditions. Here’s a video of the 55 minute talk, along with many stories of “things to know before you go.”
I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death, and I have feared no evil, for God was with me. The 23rd Psalm is very popular at religious funerals.
For the past three years, I’ve conducted my own 30 Funerals in 30 Days Challenge. I attended the funerals and memorial services for people I didn’t know, most picked out of the obituaries according to what I could fit into my schedule and for people whose obituaries were remarkable.
Why do this? Three reasons:
- To illustrate the many creative ways people celebrate the lives of those they love.
- Help reduce a fear of talking about death – something that will happen to all of us.
- Show that funerals are a life cycle event much like a wedding, best planned more than a few days ahead of time.
Religious funerals, in alphabetical order, included Anglican, Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Church of Christ, Episcopalian, Evangelical, Jewish, Lutheran, Mormon, Presbyterian, Seventh Day Adventist, Unification Church, and Unitarian Universalist. There were plenty of non-religious events as well.
There’s a growing number of religiously unaffiliated Americans, or “nones.” The Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project offers more insights through their studies of those who have left the faith of their childhood or consider themselves atheist, agnostic or “spiritual but not religious.”
This project supplemented the research in my book, A Good Goodbye. I just recently took an exam to become a Certified Thanatologist (a specialist in death dying and bereavement), and my studies for that program further expanded my knowledge regarding funeral traditions by culture and religions
There are four elements to just about any religious funeral or memorial service:
- A viewing of the body, either publicly or privately
- A gathering of community for a service of some kind
- Memorialization, or putting the deceased’s remains to rest
- A reception – luncheon, cookies and punch, cocktail party, etc.