Preparing The Order Of Service
Funeral order of service? Huh? I’ve grown accustomed to the puzzlement or silence at the end of the line when I invite the family member of the deceased to meet to plan the order of service. Forget fancy printed funeral programs; they are not yet happening in these parts at all. Very rarely have I seen a well done order of service. Not that I miss fancy programs mind you. I think it’s just another way of getting families to fork out more money.
So it is clear that I have come to view a printed order of service as basic. And even after 2 years, some funeral homes still don’t get it. And families still wonder what that is all about.
I had one standard order of service for funerals I used back home in Jamaica. At first the funeral homes used to ignore it when I sent it to them to print for the family. They would only include the church, date, time and photo of the deceased along with the Obituary. In recent times
Obituary or Eulogy?
Now this Obituary thing is causing me some serious grief! Not for the life of me can I get family members to write a proper Eulogy. I do agree that if you can’t say anything good to say nothing at all. However, that is hardly the reason for the absence of eulogies. I have come to believe that overtime persons have come to confuse the eulogy with the obituary.
I won’t get into the confusion that persists with ‘eulogy’, ‘remembrance’, and ‘obituary’. From what I have seen many persons do not know the difference among the practices. Even with provided guidelines for a eulogy, family members insist on reading the obituary in the printed program. The result?
We hear a brief itemized list of dates from birth to death, places of work, organizations joined etc. At the end of it, you still have no sense of the richness of the life that some persons lived. Worse yet, in cases where the deceased was a Christian, most times the family members do not even capture the depth of service given in and through the church. And that is just sad.
Tributes and Resolutions
The Baptist churches of the Jamaica Baptist Union do not entertain ‘resolutions’ at funeral services. I don’t know that we ever did but who knows, I might have missed that Baptist history class. Now the sense of this practice is completely lost on me. These ‘resolutions’ are written statements offered by organizations such as the Lodges, or past and present places of employment. Since they all say the same thing, I believe we could exercise better stewardship of our time!
So here I am in Panama, having to contend with ‘resolutions’ and their more notable cousins the infamous ‘Tributes’. Many pastors encounter challenges with funeral tributes. When is enough enough? Back in Jamaica the number of Tributes have to be restricted and all kinds of rules and regulations are being laid down by pastors and congregations.
Here in Panama, the period for tributes is more or less left open and persons are free to come and share words of remembrance or a selection (song or reading). First time I saw it happen at First Isthmian Baptist, only one person came forward. I could never have run such a risk in Jamaica.
But these tend to get lengthy and as a result I’ve moved them from their usual spot before the sermon and they now come after. Pretty soon, they will be coming before the service starts. I’m becoming a Bapto-Catholic!
Homily or Sermon
After 3 offensive incidents last year, my Jamaican practice of having Tributes (and since Panama Resolutions) before the sermon was discontinued, in order to preserve my holiness. All tributes and resolutions now come after the sermon. What forced my hand was the rudeness of members of the congregation who sat patiently through tributes and resolutions but began motioning to me after 5 minutes to cut my message. ‘Brite an outa awda’!
So now, they get the full message. Anybody getting cut will be the tributes and resolutions. Soon I shall be putting these tributes and resolutions before the actual start of the service and during the viewing of the body so that when we begin the service that’s it. Moreover, I believe that the sermon should be the last thing persons are left to reflect on before we leave for the interment.
And now even with translation the service takes exactly 1 hour. So them long Baptist funeral sermons are out the window. These are the days of funeral homilies. Short and to the point. No adventurous journeys round the mulberry bush!
And the descendants of the Caribbean (West Indian) peoples have learnt too well the funeral practices of mainly African origins. In the caskets you find stuffed toys, coins, stones, and I’m sure some other unmentionables too. The previously mentioned article in the Gleaner can shed more light on Panama’s funeral rites among the Caribbean descendants. Read Jamaica funeral rites.
Thankfully, the mode of dress to funerals is still pretty conservative. People still wear mostly Black, white and purple. But that is for the elderly and over 40’s. The under 40’s tell an entirely more revealing story. Like recently a young woman turned up in a white diaphanous negligeeish looking long blouse (that was no dress!). Let’s just say she was not wearing a pants or skirt with the ‘see-through-blouseish-negligeeish-thingy’ she was wearing. At the graveside when her program fell, all eyes waited to see who would pick it up. The boy with her did. Anyway….
I have outlined 3 patterns as samples of Baptist funeral orders of service I now use. The 3rd pattern is where I am headed at the next funeral.
Hope my reflections prove useful in the planning of any funerals you might have.