Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cremation Liturgy

This is my first try at this. I drafted this as a liturgy for a crematorium, with the idea that it is for the family and friends who might gather there for a cremation before or after a full funeral or memorial service.

Obviously it emerges from Christian faith, but it could easily be modified. (OK, maybe not all that easily. But somewhat. ) Also, names and pronouns could easily be inserted where I've used the phrase "our beloved."

What I am trying to do is express some of the realities of cremation, and I have taken much from the wisdom in the comments to the previous post.

All comments welcome. I am going to go ahead and hit "Publish," because I have already done so accidentally several times today as I've worked on this.

May God be with us all.

With us all, both here and there.
May God be with us all.
With us all, those we can see and hear and touch, and those we cannot.
May God be with us all.
With us all, those who live and those who have died

A reading from Psalm 137:

By the rivers of Babylon— there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.

A Prayer:

We are not where we want to be.
We are in a strange land.
We are in a foreign land, far from comfort and familiarity.
We are in a land of fire.

A Reading from Psalm 139:

Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.

A Prayer:

Our hearts are broken.
Our bodies are bent.
We are doing one of the hardest things.
We are giving up the body of our beloved one.
A body formed most wonderfully and intricately.
A body woven in secret.
A body that walked and ran and spoke and cried.
A body that loved and is loved.
A body that will be transformed by fire.
A body whose ashes we will carry to other places.

A Prayer (Based on Exodus 3):

We stand on holy ground.
We know that fire consumes and we know that it does not.
It consumes the precious body of our beloved.
It destroys the harm, the damage, the pain our beloved suffered.
But it does not consume the love we share.
It does not destroy the bonds that link us together.

A Prayer

Holy and Gracious God,
Creator of All,
You created the body for which we care today.
We confess that we do not know what to do,
That we are limited in knowledge and understanding,
And that we can only commit this body to your care and love,
Knowing that our beloved whose absence tears at our hearts
Lives with you forever,
And that the love we share
Cannot be consumed by fire, cannot be buried in the ground,
Cannot float away in the water, cannot vanish into the air,
But can only live into eternity
Because love is stronger than death.

Benediction (Contextualized from The Book of Common Prayer):

In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty God our beloved, and we commit this body to the fire. May God bless and keep our beloved and may the face of God shine upon our beloved. May God be gracious unto us all and give us peace.


Susan said...


I don't even know what to say. It is just so right, especially the last prayer.

Thanks for these comforting words. I really hope you will be able to share this liturgy with the so many people who I know will need it.

Vincent Murphy said...

Those prayers are lovely, and particularly touching for the way in which they involve responses. I can see that being a very comforting service.

One thing I would think may help strengthen it is more emphasis upon the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to life eternal for all who depart in the faith of Christ. This is a very comforting thing, as it replaces our natural worry about the fate of our beloved.

Mrs. M said...

Robin, this is beautiful, and seems very right to me.

Now I'm curious: what are you going to do with this from here?

Gannet Girl said...

Mrs. M: How would I know? Give it away, I suppose. Publish it if this ever turns into a book. Anyone is welcome to use it if they credit it to my full real name.

Nancy said...

Thank you for this gift.

Thank you.

Bishop Laura said...

Amazing, GG.

karen gerstenberger said...

It's beautiful and so appropriate. I would love to have had that read/said at the cremation.
Thank you for the effort, love and care that you put into this. Your life experiences lend an integrity to your ministry that few other pastors will have to offer. (Perhaps these are gifts from your precious ones who have gone ahead?)

Mrs. M said...

Hey, Gannett. Would you like me to ask my grief and loss guy if there's a way to distribute this to people who might need it?

Mary Beth said...

this is amazing. I would like to use it for my parents' cremations when the time comes. with attribution of course.

thank you.

Karen said...

Tears running down my cheeks. Yes, I think this would work. It also seems suitable for spreading ashes and for a number of difficult moments after the death of a beloved. It was healing to read, and I hope it was healing to write. It takes time to wed our faith with our loss. This helps a lot. Beautiful, GG.
I am so weary of the grief of death and yet on it goes. How 'bout you? I wish I could snap my fingers and make it all disappear for all of us. Thank God for denial mode--it provides a little rest along the long road.
Hugs to you, dear friend.

Gannet Girl said...

Yes, I am weary of it.

For months after Josh died, I used to ask, over and over, if time can go forward, why not backward? Why are we stuck in the relentlessness of this one direction?

I suppose that if I have accepted anything at all, that would be it: that we can only go forward. A bitter thing to have to accept.