Jehovah's Witness funerals
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in an immortal soul and have no specific religious requirements with regard to the funeral.
A lay minister will give a discourse on the life of the person who has died, with particular emphasis on aspects which set an example to friends and family.
Eulogies are rare and the service often ends with a discussion about what the person believed about death, including their hopes of a resurrection, or perhaps why God allows good people to suffer.
The minister might encourage the congregation to reflect on the brevity of life and to consider how they are using their time.
Services vary according to the wishes of the person who has died or their family and may include some religious music and personal reflections from those who knew them.
Where burial follows the service, the minister does not follow a specific ritual at the graveside.
He may make brief comments, usually reading one or two Bible verses and offering a prayer, before allowing the family a few minutes of private reflection.
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have any religious objection to cremation.
Services take place at the local Kingdom Hall.
Length of funeral and other 'rules'
The length of the funeral depends on the time agreed with the minister for the content of the ceremony. The discourse will be about 30 minutes, and then there is the time for music and personal reflections.
The committal, either at the crematorium or the cemetery, is a set time to be advised by the funeral director.
Anyone can attend a Jehovah’s Witness funeral - you do not have to be a Jehovah’s Witness.
People usually dress smartly (men in suits and women in dresses or skirts). Members address each other as 'brother' or 'sister'.
The funeral director will give valuable advice based on experience of the community and the diverse range of funerals he or she has helped organise.
Things to discuss with your minister
- Who will be the pallbearers? There are usually six people and often family members or friends should be asked.
- Who will do the readings?
- Are there any special readings, hymns, songs or prayers you want?
- How much are the church fees?
- Are there other fees, for example for the organist?
- Should you bring young children?
- What about a headstone to mark the grave?
- Are there rules about what memorials you can choose?
Order of service
The discourse will include information about the person who has died.
There will also be a record of their dedication to the church, known as privileges of service, and readings to illustrate their qualities, for example Ecclesiastical. 7:1.
There will then be readings of bible passages relevant to the deceased and what she or she hoped for; why comfort should be given to the bereaved and those who are mourning and how people can benefit from their time on earth.
The purpose of the discourse is to emphasise that Jehovah God is a God of love and mercy and to bring comfort to the bereaved.
Use of a song is optional. There is usually a brief prayer at the close.
At the graveside, or where the ashes are interred, there is a short service often including a bible reading and closed with prayer, thanking Jehovah for the resurrection hope.
Secular music and readings
These are not usual although it is something you can discuss with your minister.
Should we have a gathering afterwards?
The congregation usually meets for light refreshments following the service either using facilities at the Kingdom Hall, at the home of a relative, or in another location.
There is usually a 'memorial talk' at the Kingdom Hall, lasting between 30-60 minutes.