Memorial Services

Memorial Services: A Celebration of Life

Loving and Gracious God, we pray to you for those we love, but see no longer: Grant them your peace; let light perpetual shine upon them; and, in your loving wisdom and almighty power, work in them the good purpose of your perfect will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer page 504

The Liturgy: A Celebration and Thanksgiving

In the Episcopal Church, a memorial service is a celebration of the Resurrection. The liturgy, therefore, is characterized by joy, in the certainty that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39)

This joy, however, does not diminish the very real grief that we feel. The same love we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted by death. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend, Lazarus. So, while we rejoice that one we love has entered into the nearer presence of our Lord, we sorrow in sympathy with those who mourn.

Because the memorial service is first and foremost an act of Christian worship, it is subject to the same standards as the weekly liturgies at Trinity. The clergy in charge will be the final authority for any special requests.

Baptized Christians are properly buried from the church. The service should be held at a time when the congregation has an opportunity to be present.

The following pages are designed to facilitate the planning of a memorial service during a very difficult time and constitute the customs of Trinity Episcopal Church. There are provisions in the Book of Common Prayer for the appropriate scripture readings, psalms and hymns for the service. Those same suggestions are also provided in this booklet. Please choose those which will make this service the right one for the celebration of the life of the departed and a fitting memorial in the hearts and minds of those who mourn.

The Prayer Book Service

Trinity Episcopal Church uses the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church (published in 1979) for its services, memorial services included.

The Liturgy is found in the Book of Common Prayer on pages 491-505. This is the service that is used in most situations although some variations are available depending on circumstances. This service is also called A Celebration of Life, most commonly when combined with the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (or Holy Communion.)

The Holy Eucharist is the principal act of Christian Worship on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) and for other major celebrations in the Church. In the Holy Eucharist our union with Christ and with one another is strengthened making this sacrament particularly appropriate for a memorial service. When the Holy Eucharist is part of the service it constitutes the second half of the service. The entire congregation is invited to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion.

The service takes approximately forty-five minutes to an hour, depending on the number of people receiving communion. Considering the solemnity of the occasion, the service is never rushed.

The color of the hangings in the chancel and on the altar, as well as the color of the clergy vestments is always white for memorial services, because this is an Easter liturgy. It finds all its meaning in the Resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too, shall be raised.

Meeting with a member of the clergy as soon as possible to prepare the service and share memories (to help build the sermon) is encouraged. While it is not in the Episcopal tradition to eulogize the deceased, in some rare cases one family member or close friend may offer a brief remembrance about the life of the departed. A clergy person will conclude this part of the service with a sermon placed in the context of celebration, resurrection to eternal life, and faith in God.

It is most appropriate for the body – most typically in ashes form –  (cremains) – to be present for the liturgy in the tradition of being “buried from the church.” There is a brief service of reception as the body arrives at the door, for which it is appropriate for the family to be present. Cremation is also an ancient and appropriate practice which has become more prevalent in The Episcopal Church in recent years, so it is also appropriate that the veiled cremains be present near the altar.

Internment (burial) of the remains often takes place immediately following the service. Alternative arrangements may also be made with the clergy.


It is appropriate that readings suggested in the Book of Common Prayer be included. Additional readings, poems, or short-stories may be included at the discretion of the clergy. A suggested list of readings may be found  HERE.

Eulogies and Reflections

It is customary for the clergy to offer a reflection about the departed’s life – and include stories and memories from family members that have been shared with the minister in advance. On rare occasions, a member of the family or a friend may speak – this must be approved in advance of the service by a member of the clergy.

Service Leaflets

It is our policy that service leaflets (or booklets) – if used – will be produced by the family and approved by Trinty. A photograph or quotation is often used on the back of the service leaflet.

Guest Book

Trinity Church does not provide a guest book for people to sign. In most cases, the guest book is provided by the funeral home.


There is a wealth of beautiful and appropriate sacred music that is suitable for use in a Memorial Service.

All decisions regarding music are made by the officiating clergy and Director of Music in consultation with the family.

Music for the service should be appropriate for use in the church. Popular music deemed “secular” is not recommended. All music should be a live offering to God, and pre-recorded music is not used.

Should the family wish a soloist to sing, the musician has a list of persons who can perform this function. Sung music is also chosen in consultation with musicians.

Instrumental music other than organ is also a possibility, and such decisions should be made in consultation with the clergy and musician.


Flowers are arranged for by the family. Up to four arrangements in the church: one by the Baptismal font, one in front of the altar, one by the paschal candle, and one in front of the lectern. Any additional flower arrangements will be placed in the parish hall for the reception. The family is encouraged to take the flower arrangements after the liturgy. The choice of florist is up to the family.


Used in the Episcopal Church for public worship, candles enrich the worship experience. They are, of course, symbolic of light and warmth. But, they are also symbolic as signs of spiritual joy, as well as symbolic of the light of heaven. In addition to the two candles on the altar, the Paschal Candle used during the Easter Season is used in this service. It stands near the casket or urn of the deceased. The Paschal candle represents for us “the light of Christ” and is one of the great symbols of our Easter hope that “Christ has died, Christ is risen and Christ will come again.”

Memorial Garden

Trinity’s Memorial Garden, located on the northern portion of the campus, is a sacred place for the internment of ashes. The Memorial Garden is open to Trinity’s parishioners, former parishioners and members of their family. Urns are not used, and the ashes are placed directly in the ground. The garden is beautifully planted and tended year round. Gifts for the perpetual maintenance of the garden are always appreciated.

Suggested Hymns

General Hymns

First Line

A Mighty Fortress is our God
Eternal father, strong to Save
For all the Saints, who from their labors rest God of grace and God of glory
O God our help in ages past
Ye holy angels bright
The King of Love my shepherd is (psalm 23) Dear Lord and Father of mankind
Love divine, all loves excelling
Amazing grace
God be in my head
Take my life and let it be consecrated
We know that Christ is raised and dies no more Joyful, joyful we adore thee
Lift high the cross
Come, labor on
Jerusalem, my happy home


First Line

Come ye faithful, raise the strain Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! The strife is o’er

The Holy Eucharist

First Line

I come with joy to meet my Lord
Come, risen Lord, and deign to be our guest This is the hour of banquet and of song
My God, thy table now is spread
Let all mortal flesh keep silence
Draw nigh and take the Body of the Lord Now my tongue the mystery telling
I am the bread of Life
And now, O Father, mindful of the love Savior, again to thy dear name we raise

Hymn words and tunes may found at

Hymn #

687,688 608 287 594 680 625 645 652, 653 657 671 694 707 296 376 473 541 620

Hymn #

199 208

Hymn #

304 305, 306 316 321 324 327,328 329 335 337 345


Due to the sacred nature of the occasion, pre-recorded music is never rarely appropriate