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About Death & Dying (Planning for Death, Dying & Burial Rites)

When Should I Start Planning?
NOW is the best time to start planning for the end of life! It doesn’t matter how old or young you are. It is much easier to take care of these things when life is not in crisis mode. The church is here to help you through the process. You should have your final wishes made known and placed on file with the church (see Instructions for Survivors at the time of Death at bottom of page). It is important that death be a thoughtful part of family discussion prior to the actual experience coming into the circle of family or friends.

What Should My Family do when death is imminent? Contact the priest. (Day or Night!) This is part of their regular ministry. Thus, the priest should be notified, regardless of the time it happens. For the same reason the priest should be called immediately in times of serious illness, whether or not it is terminal. People should expect the continuing ministry of the church for guidance, comfort, and assurance. The priest is trained to guide people through all passages of life, especially when death comes.

What About Autopsies? The conduct of an autopsy is important, and persons are urged to cooperate with their physician’s request. Many things can be determined: cause of death, advances of medical knowledge to assist in better diagnosis and treatment of others, or determining cases where communicable diseases might affect other family members. Autopsy procedures maintain an attitude of respect for the physical body and utilize good surgical procedures.

What about Organ Donation? The Episcopal recognizes the life-giving benefits of organ, blood, and tissue donation. All Christians are encouraged to become organ, blood, and tissue donors "as part of their ministry to others in the name of Christ, who gave His life that we may have life in its fullness."

Should I be Cremated or Have a Casket? This decision is totally your own. It is important to realize that all flesh and blood bodies eventually decay and become again like dust in the earth. Cremation simply speeds the process along. The heavenly body is a new, spiritual body, and not the old body of flesh and blood. Therefore, either disposition is accepted by the church as long as it is done with the dignity and respect any part of God’s creation is due. How you want your body to be laid to rest is an important personal decision and needs to be discussed with your family. This will make final preparations easier for everyone involved.

Should I be Buried from the Church? Yes! ALL Christians should be buried from the church. The resources of love, guidance, hope and strength, are continually present within the church community that nurtured you through all crises of life. The final crisis, death, is a natural part of that fellowship. It is recommended that your burial take place from the community that supported you through your earthly life and nourished you for your life to come.

What is involved in Christian Burial? The funeral (or burial rite) is a service of worship where prayers for God’s guidance and comfort are offered, scripture is read, hymns of the faith are sung, and an inspirational message is given. In the Episcopal Church, the service is conducted in accordance with the Book of Common Prayer. There is a choice between Rite I (traditional language) and Rite II (contemporary language). The sacrament of Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion) is highly encouraged and should be part of the service. In this way the congregation may fully participate, and be nourished by the sacrament of our common life. Other organizational rites, such as Masonic, Military or Fraternal, may be held at separate or earlier times. In all situations, the service is not necessarily about death or about the deceased. It is about resurrection and our assurance of eternal life!

What about Music during the service? Hymns and other musical selections should be used in the service. The selections should be appropriate expressions of faith, promised in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Appropriately, all the music should be profoundly sacred music for its intended purpose in Christian worship. Sentimental songs have no place in a funeral, even though they may be favorites of the deceased. Hymns that fit within the context of the liturgy should bring hope, strength, comfort, and understanding to the gathered congregation. The priest and musician can assist with appropriate selections.

What are the Fees? The funeral home will be able to explain everything related to costs of the services they provide to you (preplanning) or your family (when it happens). The organist/musician should be compensated for their time ($150). It is customary to provide a donation to the St. James Episcopal Church Discretionary Fund (which is an almoner’s fund for those in need). An ‘honorarium’ for the priest that provides the service is totally at the family’s discretion. There is no stated ‘fee’ for any services of the clergy.

What about Medical Directives and Wills? A medical directive appoints a Healthcare Proxy and gives instructions for how you would like to be treated if you are incapacitated and not able to make medical decisions for yourself. A medical directive is sometimes referred to as a “living will” or “advanced directive.” In the Episcopal Church, we highly recommend that you have a medical directive so that your care wishes are made known should something happen.

What about my Possessions? Possessions and how we use them have a way of defining what we believe, who we are, and what we value. The same could be said with how we dispose of them. Consider how you will continue to support your church with your legacy. Remembering St. James in your will with a specific amount, a percentage and or a contingency is a generous way to give thanks to God and continue to support the community that nurtured you in life. If you wish to make a bequest to St. James in your will please state:
I, ___________, hereby give, devise, and bequeath to St. James Episcopal Church, 107 W. Church Street; Greeneville, TN 37745, ___ % of the rest, residue, and remainder of my estate (or the sum of $XX,XXX) to be used at their discretion to assist in the ministries of the Church.

In the Hope of Resurrection! The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all its meaning in the resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too, shall be raised. The liturgy, therefore, is characterized by joy, in the certainty that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This joy, however, does not make human grief unchristian. The very love we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted by death. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend. So, while we rejoice that one we love has entered into the nearer presence of our Lord, we sorrow in sympathy with those who mourn.  ~ The Book of Common Prayer, page 507

This page is purely informational. St. James Episcopal Church is not engaged in offering any legal or medical advice. Laws vary from state to state and we urge you to contact your own financial planner, attorney and/or health care provider for those issues specific to your situation. For spiritual matters regarding death, dying, salvation, and afterlife, please contact the priest.
Ken Saunders,
Jun 13, 2018, 1:46 PM