Ritual and remembrance
These ritual and remembrance resources are designed for those responsible for funerals, memorials and remembrance services.
We hope these resources encourage you to revive old rituals as well as trying new, authentic, and meaningful ones to help families and communities process grief.
Arranging a funeral
When someone we love dies, life takes on a whole new set of challenges. It may be that the one we love has battled long and hard against an illness, or it could be that this has been a sudden loss which no one could have anticipated. Whatever the circumstances, no one can really prepare us for what it feels like.
Because the Church of Scotland is a national church, a minister may be called in by anyone at any time. This may be during a long illness, when life is ending, or in the immediate aftermath. Very often, the minister only knows a death has taken place when the funeral director calls. However, the minister is always happy to be called to support a family during illness, and around hospital stays. The minister is not informed by the NHS if someone within the parish is ill or in need of support. So please, if it feels appropriate, don't be afraid to call.
You do not need to be a member of the Church of Scotland to hold a funeral in your local church. The local church is the Parish Church and is for anyone who lives in or has a family connection to the parish.
Occasionally, people make their feelings known in advance, and it may be that there is already a written plan, such as hymns already chosen. Oftentimes, however, the family is unsure what to do after a loved one has died. In that case, the minister can help with planning, so don't hesitate to schedule a visit to chat about what you want.
You can also ask the Funeral Director to liaise with the minister regarding when they are available and checking that the church (or crematorium) is free. The funeral director will pass on all your contact information, and the minister will phone to arrange a convenient time to talk about the service.
At the meeting you will be asked about important events in the family history, such as when your loved one was born, which schools they attended, first jobs, their relationships and so on. It is listening to you talk about your loved one that helps the minister to picture them, tell their story and then choose appropriate readings, poems and prayers. Also, if you have not already done so, to help you choose the hymns or other music you want.
The minister and local church want to make this difficult time as bearable as possible. We will do all we can to support, care, and carry out your wishes at this time. Please contact the minister if you need to know anything else.
There is a small fee for the use of the church, the services of the organist and the church officer (the funeral director will look after this for you). There is no fee for the services of the minister.
Resources for ministers
Coping with death
People living in Scotland's poorest communities disproportionately bear many of society's problems. There are higher numbers of deaths from murder, suicide, alcohol, and drugs, and often people die at a younger age from preventable diseases.
While people often show remarkable resilience in overcoming suffering, the death of a close family member, particularly a young person, can put additional stress on an already volatile situation. When tragedy strikes, finding ways to help the family and community heal can be demanding, emotional, and stressful work.
It is often the church to which the family and community turn for a unique blessing and comfort, and those responsible for funerals are trusted to manifest the faith of the church and to incorporate the blessing and concern of the whole community in what they say and do.
It can be an awesome and taxing responsibility, and it is with this in mind that these resources have been developed.
- After a Suicide - written by Scottish Association for Mental Health
- Crematorium service for a baby
- Snowflake - an idea for a service where young children are present
- Easter Journey of Remembrance - a sample remembrance service by Rev David Locke from his time at Barlanark Greyfriars Church in Glasgow
- Kaddish - a look into the Jewish faith's response to ritual and remembrance
- Why we have a problem with death
- A discussion on the matter of prayers for the dead
Real life examples from ministers
- Funeral of a young man - killed in a road traffic accident
- Funeral of a young woman - a drug user and sex worker
- Service for a women with special needs who died suddenly aged 34
- Dedication of a Memorial Bench - a memorial service for a young man aged 17 who was stabbed and killed
- Dedication of a memorial table - a dedication of a memorial table for a young man who took his own life in prison, the table was next to a bench previously dedicated to the man's younger brother