If you have a bereavement in the family, especially a close loved one, you need the funeral arrangements to be made as easy as possible. It is therefore helpful to have thought through some of the practical procedures in advance. These notes are intended to offer some guidance so that difficulties may be avoided.
“I know that my Redeemer lives“
A Christian funeral and burial should be an apt expression of your belief and hope in Him who creates all things, seen and unseen and whose redeeming love calls us, and the lost loved one, into life in Christ from the darkest hour. A Christian funeral is also an outreach in love to those mourners who may not share your faith but who come to pay their respects.
Whatever the final arrangements made, please first instruct a funeral director Bestattungsinstitut. That means the next of kin (responsible relative) ringing the one of your choice straightaway and naming St. Thomas Becket Church and the Chaplain. That is the normal courtesy. The funeral director will then make a visit and will note your wishes. In the first instance the Chaplain will want to see you to be with you in your grief rather than negotiate about venues, times and dates. It’s so much better if the priest has been able to visit before the death, whether at home or in hospital and whether or not you or your loved one has been a regular at church.
Where, when, what?
A funeral service is best as soon as possible, consistent with availability of the funeral director and Chaplain and the need for relatives to travel. The larger the Bestattungsinstitut usually the more available they are in a given time-frame. The best-practice English custom is to have a funeral service in church in the presence of the deceased, with the coffin brought into church at the time of the funeral, or sometimes brought into church the evening before, when prayers can be offered for the response of the soul. This can be helpful to family mourners, who can seek a moment’s quiet reflection before the busy funeral day breaks upon them.
At the end of the funeral service, the English custom is to accompany the coffin to the cemetery, usually in Hamburg to Ohlsdorf. If the body is to be buried, then the committal prayers can be said at the graveside, the funeral cars parking at a convenient point near the grave plot. Mostly only the near relatives make this last journey but sometimes a larger number of people want to be present; that is fine, since from church to churchyard is only a few yards in many English churches.
If the body is to be cremated, then the mourners go to one of the three cremation chapels (Feierhallen) equipped for cremation committals, where the coffin descends from sight at the end of the short committal service. Particularly if expense is a consideration, the committal prayers can be spoken by the Chaplain at the hearse (Leichenwagen) outside the church and only the hearse then proceeding to Ohlsdorf.
The next of kin can ask for the whole funeral rites, funeral service and committal, to be conducted at Ohlsdorf, either in the nearest Kapelle to the grave plot; or at one of the Feierhallen. The Chaplain is perfectly prepared to conduct this and of course it saves on journeys and probably on expense.
Interment (Burial) of Ashes
In Germany, the ashes must be buried in an urn, a container which today can be degradable. They may not be strewn or scattered, or buried “loose” as is the case in England. Only the Bestatungsinstitut can receive the ashes in Germany. An exception is only made when the ashes are to be taken to England by relatives for interment there. The ashes being received by the funeral director, then a separate time is arranged for the burial of ashes. This can occur without the presence of the priest; many families would like their attendance and prayers at the graveside then. The ashes can be buried at sea from Hamburg, within a salt-based container, which of course very soon dissolves. There is a woodland burial of ashes area at Ohlsdorf, where burials are marked only by a small common plaque near a tree, with space for name and dates. The burials lie hidden in the grass underneath the trees. If you are looking for a natural spot without the need for maintenance, then this may be a solution.
St Thomas Becket Graveplot
The Church has purchased a graveplot with existing memorial stone. The plot can contain 2 earth burials and 16 urns, in any order of burial, each new burial extending the 25-year period, so that the last burial there still has 25 years’ undisturbed rest. This provides a much cheaper option for an earth burial.
Please contact the Chaplain for further information.