Quaker funerals and memorial meetings

Quaker funerals are based, like all Quaker meetings for worship, on silent reflection and prayer. Sometimes there is a “memorial meeting” which may be held just after the funeral or some time later. The meeting for worship for a funeral or a memorial meeting has no set form. It can be held in a convenient meeting place, at the graveside, or both. Gathering in silence, everyone is invited to pray, particularly focusing their prayers on those who have been bereaved.

The silence can be broken by vocal prayer, by someone reading a passage from the Bible or other helpful words. Anyone who feels moved can speak. In this way, the deceased is remembered with love and thankfulness and those who are left behind receive comfort and sympathy. Whether in silence or in speech, by their attentive thought and prayer, everyone present contributes to the power of the meeting.

In a funeral, towards the end of the meeting an elder will give the signal for the coffin to be withdrawn. The meeting ends with the two elders shaking hands, giving an encouragement for everyone else to do so.

There may be a sense of joy as we celebrate and give thanks to God for the life now completed. For this reason, Quakers do not generally feel compelled to wear sombre colours.

Quakers have learned that shared waiting in the divine presence can bring many gifts. Among these are the comfort which is found in the caring support of others, and the beginnings of an understanding of how to move forward in difficulty or grief. Reassurance can come from touching, even briefly, the eternal reality which encloses our little world of space and time.

Accepting the fact of death, we are freed to live more fully. In bereavement give yourself time to grieve. When others mourn, let your love embrace them.

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