LUTHERAN FUNERAL TRADITIONS
This post highlights general funeral practices for the Lutheran Church. The actual practices of Lutheran individuals, families, and congregations may vary.
For two examples of Lutheran memorial services, read these stories from the 30 Funerals in 30 Days Challenge for Carol Ann Exley and Gail Shirley.
Treatment of the body: The body may be viewed, either at a visitation event at the funeral home and/or during the funeral. Embalming and cremation are accepted.
Funeral or memorial services: Funerals usually take place within three days. The service may be held in the church of the deceased or a funeral home and last about 30 minutes. A pastor performs the service. Either a program will indicate the order of the ceremony or the pastor will make periodic announcements. The ceremony may include Holy Communion for all Christian attendees. Books used may include the Lutheran Book of Worship, The Lutheran Hymnal, or Lutheran Worship.
Do’s and Don’ts: Sign the guest book. Ushers will advise where to sit. If arriving late, do not enter during the procession or prayers. It is not appropriate to take pictures or record the service (both audio and video). Christians are expected to stand, kneel, read prayers aloud and sing with those present. Non-Christians are expected to stand with the congregation. If choosing not to kneel, remain seated. When viewing the body, which is optional, observe silently and move on. Express your condolences to the family. It is appropriate to visit the bereaved at home after the funeral.
Interment: Guests should attend. The casket is carried to the grave, and the pastor leads a brief service with readings and prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer. The pastor blesses the earth placed on the casket and blesses those gathered at the graveside.
Post-Event Reception: It is appropriate to visit the home of the bereaved after the funeral. If food is served, wait for the saying of grace before eating. It would be impolite not to eat, unless you have dietary restrictions. There may be alcoholic beverages, depending on the family’s custom. No religious services are held in the home.
Gifts: Upon learning about the death, telephone, visit or send a note to the bereaved offering your sympathy and expressing your care and love. It is appropriate to send flowers or food unless the family expresses otherwise. A charitable contribution made in the memory of the deceased is also appropriate. The family will often announce the preferred charity through the funeral home or funeral worship folder.
Mourning period: A mourner might return to work after several days and return to a normal social schedule after several weeks.
Mourning customs: There are no specific Lutheran mourning customs. Some congregations remember the first year anniversary of the death in prayers in church.
Notes: Local social customs govern, but conservative clothing and dark, somber colors are recommended.
Lutheran Funeral Customs
|Length of Service|
|Dress Code? (Men/Women)|
Dark & Somber / Men: Jacket & Tie
With pastor's permmission
|Source of Readings?|
Lutheran Book of Worship
|Return to Work? (Days)|
|No. of Days to Mourn?|
In the latter part of the 15th century, Martin Luther, a German, was one of many who objected to the Roman Catholic teaching that one is saved by faith and good works. In contrast, he believed in being saved by simply following Jesus. He also believed that the church should conduct services in the languages of its peoples and that the clergy should be able to marry. In response, the Church ousted Luther who then founded the Lutheran Church.
The faith spread and German and Scandinavian immigrants brought it to the US. Today, Lutherans can be described as either Evangelical Lutherans, who are more theologically liberal or a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod who are more conservative.
Lutherans regard death as a new beginning. They believe that those who have faith are assured eternal life with God. At the service, guests are ushered to seating. If arriving late, they do not enter during the procession or prayer. A pastor presides over the service and reads from the Lutheran Book of Worship or The Lutheran Hymnal of Lutheran Worship. Christians are expected to fully participate, but non-Christians need not kneel, sing or pray with them. If interested in recording the service, permission should be received from the pastor prior to the service. There are no specific rituals for observing the anniversary of the death.
There is no rule concerning when the bereaved may return to work and social activities, but visits from friends after the funeral are welcome.