The death of a loved one, regardless of the circumstances, is a time of significant loss and grief. Because it is difficult to plan appropriately when under the emotional stress of loss, you are encouraged to consider, discuss and even plan in advance the arrangements that will be necessary at the time of your own death or the death of a loved one. This includes decisions about the Christian options of burial, cremation or donation of the body for medical purposes. This brochure has been developed to help you pre-plan your own service, or to be of help to family members or friends at the time of a death. The pastors at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church (MAPC) welcome the opportunity to assist you with such planning. They will be glad to keep a record on file of your preferences, as well as any other pertinent documents such as living wills, powers of attorney and lists of those to be notified at the time of death. They can also give you the names of several professional establishments specializing in embalming, cremation and other funeral arrangements that go beyond the development of the worship service. Donations for medical purposes should be made through a hospital or medical school.
Because We Believe
Because Christians believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, death is understood to be a natural part of this life. It is the occasion when those who die in the Lord move from this world where all die, to the realm of life eternal lived with the Lord, where death, loss, mourning, crying and pain no longer exist. (Rev. 21:4) Christians also experience death as a time of loss when sorrow, grief and bereavement are both natural and appropriate. These two convictions guide the church in its ministry to those who have lost a loved one to death, affirming with both joy and tears the promise and hope of the gospel.
Grieving in a Community of Hope
Christians do not bear bereavement in isolation, but are sustained by the power of God’s Spirit, the Comforter, and are to be surrounded by the support, consolation and care of the faith community. The pastors of this church have been trained to minister to and provide support and assistance to those who have lost someone to death. They welcome the privilege of ministering to you on such occasions, and stand ready to assist you in such times of need. When death occurs, a member of the pastoral staff should be informed as soon as possible in order that they might provide appropriate consolation and support to you, your family and friends, and assist in making arrangements for a service that commemorates and gives thanks for the life of the one who has died. These plans should provide for arrangements that are simple, bear witness to resurrection hope, are centered in the witness of Christian scripture as it is read and sung, and include the larger Christian community in prayer and support.
Choices To Be Made
A number of choices will need to be made beyond that of burial, cremation, organ or other donation for medical purposes before the service can be planned:
- Will the family wish to have an opportunity to view their loved one’s body? (Viewings are possible even when the deceased has made arrangements for organ donations.) Viewings can be very helpful to the grieving process that will follow, especially if the death was unexpected. A pastor can talk with you about this and assist you in your decision.
- Will the viewing be private (for family members only) or also include the larger community of friends?
- Will the body be buried, cremated or donated?
- Does the deceased have a burial plot or columbarium niche? If not, a funeral director can assist you with the purchase of a grave, or a niche may be purchased from the church.
- Will the service be a funeral or memorial service? Funeral services have the casket or urn present in the service; memorial services take place after burial, scattering of ashes or inurnment (placing of an urn in a columbarium niche).
- Will the burial, scattering or inurnment be a continuation of the worship service or take place before or at an extended time after the service?
- Will there be a reception following the worship or committal service, and where will it be held—the church’s Parish Hall, a club, nearby hotel or private home? The funeral or memorial service is ordinarily held in the usual place of worship in order to join the service to the community’s continuing worship, life and witness to the resurrection. It may be held on any day of the week, and should be planned for a time that will meet not only the needs of the family, but also enable the participation of other members of the faith community.
Policies Concerning the Service
The service itself is under the direction of the pastor and will include scripture readings, hymns, brief sermon, and prayers that affirm God’s power over death, belief in the resurrection to everlasting life and the assurance of the communion of saints. The service will give thanks for the life of the one who has died with special emphasis upon the gifts, attributes, accomplishments and contributions of the person’s life. Family members and/or friends may be invited to participate as leaders in the service at the discretion of the pastor. A request to celebrate the Lord’s Supper as a part of the service requires the approval of the Session (the governing body of the congregation) with such a request being made through the pastor.1 The service is complete in itself and any fraternal, civic or military rites must be conducted at a separate time and place.2 When there are important reasons not to hold the service in the usual place of worship, it may be held at another suitable place such as a chapel, home, funeral home, crematorium, mausoleum, columbarium or graveside.
The Funeral or Memorial Service
The service begins with the gathering of family and the larger community. If a casket has been open for viewing (either in the sanctuary, Dana Chapel or the Phillips Lounge), it shall be closed, covered with the church’s white funeral pall and placed in the center of the crossing of the sanctuary, in front of the chancel steps. If the body has been cremated and not yet inurned, the urn will be placed on a small table on the chancel adjacent to the processional cross. During this time of gathering the organist or other musicians will play preludes suitable for reflection, meditation and personal prayer.
If tributes are to be offered, these will be presented once the family has been seated. Tributes offered by family members or friends will be limited to no more than two, and shall be no longer than five minutes each. Longer remembrances and recollections are more appropriately offered during a post committal/inurnment reception or meal. Following the tributes a final organ prelude will be played prior to a call to worship.
Lessons, Hymns, Anthems and Other Music
The service itself shall consist of a number of readings from scripture including several Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel readings, the singing of hymns, and may also include anthems, or other vocal or instrumental music. The service is designed to give expression to God’s sovereignty over death, confessing God’s power to raise us to new life and God’s desire to bring us comfort in our time of loss. The pastor will want to consult with the family in the choosing of these lessons, hymns and other musical offerings. A list of some appropriate scripture lessons and hymns is available at the bottom of this page and is intended to be helpful but not exhaustive. Other readings or music (poetry, inspirational writings or songs) should be presented as a part of the tributes, but must have the prior approval of the pastor to insure that their messages are consistent with the Christian gospel.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Following the reading of the lessons, a brief sermon and musical offering, the pastor will lead the community in prayer. This prayer is a time to give thanks to God for the life of Jesus Christ and the promise of the gospel, for the gift of the life of the one who has died, remembering the characteristics, contributions and service that especially endeared the deceased to family, friends and the faith community. Thanksgiving is also offered for the promised comfort of the Holy Spirit, praying for support for family and friends in this time of loss. Included in this prayer are intercessions for family members and loved ones who are grieving, as well as for those ministering to them and for all who have suffered loss. Following a prayer commending the one who has died to the eternal care of God, and for the grace of faith and hope for all present, the pastor will lead the congregation in praying together the Lord’s Prayer. Following a final hymn the people will be sent forth with a blessing and organ postlude. If a casket is present, the pastor will lead it and the pallbearers out of the sanctuary and to the waiting hearse. The family may follow the casket, be led by the other pastors to the Phillips Lounge in preparation for the cortege to the cemetery or to the Parish Hall to greet friends at a reception.
Service of Committal
A service of committal may take place at the graveside or in the columbarium either before or after the main worship service. This service of farewell for family and friends is one of simplicity, dignity and brevity. It will include a brief reading from scripture, words of committal, prayers, final blessing and dismissal, entrusting the one who has died to the care of God, bearing witness to faith in the resurrection to eternal life.3 It is also possible to hold only a graveside service, which would include scripture readings, remembrances of the deceased and prayers similar to those in a full service, including the prayer of committal.
Must one be a member of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church to have a funeral or memorial service at the church?
No. This ministry of the church and its pastors is open to all who profess faith in Jesus Christ, whether a member of the congregation or not.
Must one be a member of the church to purchase a niche in the columbarium?
No. Single or companion niches are available to anyone eligible for a funeral or memorial service at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. The one requirement is that he or she be Christian.
May I ask for a particular pastor on the staff?
Certainly. For church members, all pastors who are available will normally participate in the service. Non-member requests for a particular pastor can be accommodated depending upon that pastor’s availability.
How soon and at what time should the service be?
Funeral services are generally held within three to seven days following death, thereby allowing appropriate time for family members and friends to gather for the service. Memorial services can be held at any time. If a funeral is to be followed by a burial that same day, the schedule of the cemetery workers dictates that the service be held in the morning or very early afternoon as cemeteries in the area do not allow a burial to begin after 4 pm. (It is possible to have a late afternoon or evening service, followed by a burial the next morning.) Otherwise, the service should be scheduled for a time that will allow for the greatest number of people to attend. Frequently, weekday services occur before or after the luncheon hour, allowing people to be away from their offices for an extended time around noon. Saturday services are often held mid to late morning, with Sunday services being held an hour after the last worship service.
What fees are associated with the service?
Fees for the use of the building, its preparation and cleaning following the service, as well as the services of the pastors and musicians are included at the bottom of this page. There are no building usage or pastoral fees for active members of the congregation as this is part of the church’s ministry to its members.
Is it possible to use guest musicians?
The musical portion of the service is under the supervision of both the officiating pastor and the church’s Director of Music. Our own professional soloists, quartet or octet are available for the service if requested. It is also possible to utilize the services of other instrumentalists. We do not recommend the use of family or friends as soloists, as the emotional nature of the occasion makes singing or playing extremely difficult. This should be discussed with the pastor during service planning and a final determination made at that time. A guest organist or other instrumentalists may be used, subject to the approval of the Director of Music. In accordance with American Guild of Organists rules, when a guest organist is utilized for the service, the church’s organist will receive the customary service fee with the family providing an honoraria or other stipend to the guest musician.
What about flowers?
One or two floral displays are most appropriate and may be ordered through your own florist or one of several the church can suggest to you. Because of the beauty of the sanctuary itself, as well as concerns about good stewardship, we recommend that floral displays remain modest in their size and number. Floral casket blankets are not necessary as the casket will be covered with the church’s white silk funeral pall during the service. Often, friends and business or professional associates will send floral arrangements. These will be displayed in appropriate places throughout the sanctuary, narthex and the Parish Hall, should there be a reception.
May we have a viewing at the church a day before the service or must that take place at a funeral home?
Viewing can take place in the church, either on an afternoon and/or evening before the funeral, or one or two hours before the service on the day of the funeral itself. There will be a modest charge for the preparation and use of the space.
Does the church provide pallbearers?
No. If a casket is to be present, pallbearers will need to be provided by the family or friends, or arranged for by the family through the funeral director. If professional pallbearers are used, it is possible to have honorary pallbearers listed as such in the order of worship.
Who is responsible for producing the order of worship or program?
After the service has been planned with the pastor, the church will produce a draft of the order of worship and return it to the family for proofing and correction. Once a final draft is approved by the family, the church will be responsible for its printing. The cost will depend upon the nature of that printing (photocopy or offset press) and the number of copies. This expense will be included in the statement of charges from the church for its services. If a photograph is to be included in the worship program, the family must supply one suitable for reproduction.
Who is responsible for funeral notices or an obituary?
The family should designate someone to write an appropriate funeral notice which can be filed by you with the New York Times on a fee basis by telephone or fax. The notice should announce the death, as well as date and time of the person’s funeral or memorial service. These are published daily. Larger obituaries of prominent persons are published by the newspaper at its discretion and on its own schedule, with material submitted by the family subject to the paper’s editorial decisions. Notices through other papers in or beyond New York City should be filed by contacting the particular paper’s obituary department. Often, a funeral director will be able to assist with these contacts.
Who provides the guest book?
The family is responsible for providing a guest book, which can be purchased through a funeral director, at one of the city’s fine stationery stores or through the church. This will be placed in the room during a viewing, in the narthex during the service and in the Parish Hall during the reception.
When is payment due to the church?
Once the service is complete, the church’s business office will prepare a statement of charges, which can then be paid within 30 days of receipt. The single exception is payment for the columbarium niche, which must be paid for prior to the service.
May a reception follow the service?
Yes. This is an important time for worshipers to greet the family and extend their condolences. It is also a good time for people to engage in further remembrance. We suggest that if the family has favorite photographs, artwork or other important mementoes, these be displayed at the reception. The family is responsible for providing these. The church facilities supervisor will assist with their display.
Are food services available for the reception?
The church has a food services department that can assist with refreshments for the reception. This can be as simple as coffee, tea, water, juices and cookies, or as elaborate as a sit-down meal. Receptions often include tea sandwiches, cheese and crackers, and beverages, and may include wine. Generally, such plans depend not only upon the time of day the service is held, but also whether a graveside service is to follow. The cost for the reception will be included in the final statement of charges prepared by our business office.
Is the family responsible for ushers?
No. The members of the Board of Deacons of the church provide this service as one of their ministries. Deacons will be present before the service to distribute the orders of worship and to direct people to phones, coatrooms, restrooms and other facilities.
If a large photograph or portrait is available, may it be used as a part of the service?
Yes. It may be placed either in the narthex, adjacent to the guest book, or on an easel near the casket or urn.
Is it possible to have a recording made of the service?
Yes. A recording can be made of a service held in the Sanctuary. It will be supplied later as a CD. The fee for this service is $100.
May the family designate its desire for memorial gifts?
The family may choose various organizations as the recipients of memorial donations. This should be included in the notice published in the newspaper. It may also be included in the worship program. Gifts given to Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church will be acknowledged to the donor for tax purposes and a list of those giving such remembrance gifts will be provided to the family for appropriate acknowledgment.
This list merely offers suggestions and is not intended to be exhaustive.
Isaiah 40:1-11, 28-31
Psalm 46:1-5, 10-11
Psalm 90:1-10, 12
Romans 8:14-23, 31-39
Romans 14:7-9, 10b-12
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 35-38, 42-44, 50, 53-58
2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Revelation 21:1-4, 22-25, 22:3-5
Luke 23:33, 39-43
John 14:1-6, 25-27
Our God, Our Help in Ages Past
A Mighty Fortress is Our God
How Firm a Foundation
Abide With Me
Be Thou My Vision
Give Thanks for Life
O Lord of Life, Where’er They Be
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
Now Thank Thee All Our God
The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll Not Want
The King of Love My Shepherd Is
My Shepherd Will Supply My Needs
For All the Saints Who From Their Labors Rest
Usage Fee: $2,000
Building Staff Fee: $300
Bulletin Printing Fee (minimum): $100
Usage Fee: $1,000
Building Staff Fee: $200
Bulletin Printing Fee (minimum): $100
Staff Fees for Services in Sanctuary or Dana Chapel
Vocal Soloist: $300
Vocal Quartet: $800
Choir of Eight: $1,600
Instrumentalist (Trumpet, Violin, etc.): $300
String Quartet: $1,350
• Building Usage and Minister fees do not apply to active members of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church.
• Bulletin printing fee will depend upon the selected option (photocopy or offset press), stock and number of copies.
• These fees are in effect as of December 7, 2012, and are subject to change.
1034 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10021
Art In Flowers Inc.
253 East 62nd Street
New York, NY 10021
1379 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10128
1. Directory for Worship, Book of Order, (Louisville, KY: Office of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 2002-03), W-4.10003.
2. Directory for Worship, W-4.10005.
3. Directory for Worship, W-4.10006.