Funeral customs vary among Baptist congregations, but religion is the common theme that ties them together. Generally, pastors try to honor the family’s wishes and personalize funeral services. It is not unusual to see special musical performances, hear favorite Bible verses or view memorabilia, such as photographs or military honors, in a Baptist funeral. Above all, the pastor will offer an invitation to funeral-goers to accept Jesus in order to have peace in this life and the next.
Regardless of whether the body of the deceased is cremated or embalmed, traditional Baptist congregations hold a viewing, also known as the receiving of family and friends, on the night before a funeral service. Many families choose to blend the customary viewing and the funeral service for the convenience of those traveling or getting off work. The viewing gives mourners an opportunity to see their loved one a final time -- in the event of an open casket -- and to give their condolences to the family. Viewers move slowly and somberly through a receiving line to pay their respects.
Gifts and Flowers
It is customary to send flowers to the family home, funeral home or the church to offer condolences. If a family prefers not to have flowers at the funeral, they generally make a request in the obituary for people to make contributions to the departed’s favorite charity or home church instead. These donations can be given to the family members before or after the funeral service, or sent in the mail. Dropping off food at the family home throughout the funeral week is also customary among Baptists.
At the beginning of a Baptist funeral service, a deacon or layperson usually closes the casket and it remains closed. The service includes prayer, singing, a Bible lesson and an invitation to accept Christ. Some individual churches invite friends to say a few words about the departed during an open sharing time. Pallbearers typically wear a dark suit and tie, and mourners generally wear black or dark colors. The main focus of the funeral is the deceased’s relationship with God and his eternal salvation.
After the Funeral
When the funeral service ends, guests are invited to a brief graveside service for further Scripture reading and prayer. The casket may be lowered into the ground at that time, or the cemetery staff may wait until everyone is gone to bury it. Family and friends then travel to a prepared dinner in the church fellowship hall, someone’s home, or a restaurant. No alcohol is served at the meal. It is customary to call and visit the family home after the funeral.
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