First Unitarian Society in Newton

Ministries / Services / Personal Event Services / Memorial Service Planning

How to Plan a Memorial Service


One of the times when membership in a congregation is most meaningful is when a loved one dies. When people are emotionally vulnerable, there are still many practical arrangements to make and questions to ask. The minister and the FUSN staff are skilled at helping you during this difficult time. Information regarding burial, cremation, memorial services, and other issues is provided on this webpage. This information, as well as support and assistance with arrangements, is also available to you from the FUSN minister.

Burial or Cremation

Funeral Homes will either embalm or cremate the body; they will arrange for a body to be transported elsewhere by rail or air if that is necessary; they will offer space for a wake or calling hours; they will help you arrange for a casket; they will handle death notices in the newspaper; they will arrange for limousines and a hearse if there is to be a funeral or committal service; they will transport flowers from the funeral home to the site of the funeral and then to the cemetery; they will arrange the funeral cortege to the cemetery; they can arrange a police escort. If a family wants calling hours and a traditional funeral and would like a burial in a cemetery then the services of a funeral home are the right choice. The cost can range from $6,000 to $12,000 or more.

Direct Cremation Services will cremate the body; they will offer space for viewing prior to cremation and often a chapel for a memorial service before or during the cremation if the family wants that. They will provide a container to transport the cremated remains and can arrange for shipping if necessary. Most will also offer a sprinkling service if the family does not have a specific plan for that. They often offer a selection of urns. Families can usually arrange for other services if needed. If there is to be no wake or traditional funeral but a memorial service and private committal of the remains, a direct cremation Service is the right choice. The general price ranges from $1,300 to $3,000.

Back to the Land Transport body to the crematorium or cemetery yourself. Get a Transport Certificate from the city, use a closed vehicle, transport in a casket. Purchase a casket via Internet or visit Mourning Dove Studio on Mass. Ave. in Arlington (casket prices $8.00 to $3,500). New England Burials at Sea offers memorial cruises to dispose of ashes or whole body. There are two green cemeteries in in Maine. Work with local cemeteries to compare options.

 

Obituaries and Death Notices

If you are not using a full-service funeral parlor, you will want to call a death notice in to the newspaper. You should know that death notices are paid for at the same rate as a classified ad if you use a paper like the Globe or Herald or TAB. A death notice is what you see in the paper listed by town and an obituary is a feature article run only at the discretion of the newspaper if the editors deem the departed person was influential in the community. Check the newspaper (also online) for sample death notices to see various formats and how different information and family relationships are handled before calling yours in to the paper. Authentication of the death will be done before the notice will be printed. Be sure to ask the classified person how much you are spending, since the words add up fairly quickly.

 

Types of Services

As soon as you are ready to make arrangements for a service, you will want to work with the FUSN administrator to check the minister’s schedule and also to see when the sanctuary is available for services. You may also want to contact the organist. There are several types of services you may choose: a memorial service, a funeral service, or a committal service.

Memorial Service–Most frequently known as a Celebration of Life, this service is held days, weeks, or even months after the death. This service may be held in the sanctuary or any favored location. The minister will meet with you and other family members to plan the service.

Funeral Service–A traditional funeral is a service with the deceased person’s body present in a casket. A funeral is held three to seven days after the death and is often preceded by visiting hours at a funeral parlor. The casket is opened or closed depending on the family’s wishes. The funeral may be followed by a graveside committal service.

Committal Service–The committal service is one held at the point of burial or internment of the body or ashes.

 

Memorial Service at FUSN

FUSN Staff to Contact

The administrator (617-527-3203) is generally the first contact and she will arrange to notify the minister. You will reserve space and negotiate dates and times with her. She is also the person you will work with to create an order of service ; you can ask her about deadlines, format for photos, etc. She will also be able to show you samples. Ask her for contact info for other staff members you want to reach.

For non-members who are renting space, Fran will give you prices. The minister may be available or assist with finding a minister for you.

Members will want to set up an appointment with the minister and possibly including other family members to discuss the outline of the service and provide information for a eulogy if you want the minister to handle that. The organist is the next person you may want to contact. He or she may also be able to play the piano. If you want to have any other instrumentalists or vocalists perform, you may want to ask the music director for help in finding them and just give their contact info to the organist and he/she will collaborate.

Space and Estimating Attendance

Generally speaking, the number of attendees to a memorial service decreases with the age of the departed person unless he or she had a lot of grown children or was in a profession such as teaching, where there were/are a lot of contacts. Families often underestimate attendance. Someone with a small family who dies while he or she is still employed will usually still have a minimum of a hundred people at a service and often more than twice that if he or she was at all active in the community. Private services in a cremation chapel or committal services at a gravesite are controlled by the number of invitations issued by the family. The newspaper death notice should contain details about public memorial services or simply say that services are to be private. Invitations to private services are usually issued by telephone.

The space is usually determined by the number of attendees expected and the service style. At FUSN, there have been wonderful services in the sanctuary, the chapel, and the Alliance Room. A small service for a very old person will not seem so ill-attended if the space is small also.

 

Fees

Non-members will be charged rental for the sanctuary and any rooms needed.

FUSN members do not pay for space or for the minister’s or administrator’s or music director’s services.

Because FUSN subscribes to the guidelines of the American Guild of organists, we abide by their rules. That means that if the organ is used during any service, families pay a bench fee of from $300 to $350 to the FUSN organist, no matter who plays the organ. If an organist is asked to learn a complicated piece, the fee may be higher.

Families may choose to make a memorial donation to FUSN or to the minister’s discretionary fund.

 

Memorial Service Checklist

1. Once you’ve decided that you would like to have a memorial service, make sure you have reserved the space, date, and time with the church office. If you want to have a reception after the service in the parish hall or use the kitchen or the Alliance room, this is the time to make reservations.

2. If you want the minister to conduct the service, be sure to check the minister’s schedule and adjust your space reservation accordingly. Also, ask her for an appointment to get together to discuss the elements of the service and also the eulogy if you want her to do that. Call other family members who should participate in planning.

3. Decide on type of music and musician/s. Get the number of the organist to secure his/her services. The organist will be very helpful with suggestions for music and hymns. If you want help arranging for other instrumentalists or vocalists, get the number of the music director. Be sure the organist has the contact information of other musicians right away.

4. Once the service has begun to take shape, determine whether you would like a printed order of service to hand out and whether you want to do it yourself or have the church administrator do it for you. Ask to see samples when you come to see the minister. Ask the administrator to get music information from the organist and do think about photographs or favorite poems for the covers.

5. You will want to arrange for flowers for the altar and possibly for the reception. If you are using a funeral home, ask if they will transfer the flowers to the altar for the service. Any arrangement for the FUSN altar needs to measure at least two feet above the top of the container and be at least two to three feet wide if it is to show up against the dark wood in the sanctuary. If you are having a reception, you may want flowers for the food table—these are great tasks for friends or family members who have offered to help.

6. Think of at least four family members or friends to serve as greeters/ushers during the service and ask them to arrive 15 minutes early.

7. Layout of the parish hall for the reception has many possibilities. Receiving line is optional and has pros and cons. Often families like to display photographs on a table at the reception and this would be a good project to hand off to another member of the family or friend.

8. If you are not using a funeral home, you will need to provide your own guest book, if you want one. It should go at the back of the church and later brought into the reception to the photograph table. Purchasing and taking charge of this book is another task to offer to a friend who is looking for a way to help.

9. Do get the name of a lay minister to discuss details about the reception and possible caterers. Punch, tea, coffee, and sometimes wine may be served. You may want to ask the administrator about the possibility of hiring one or two young people to help with setup and cleanup of the parish hall, emptying trash, etc., and possibly someone to stay at your house during the service and reception. Use of the dishwasher is only allowed by certified dishwashers otherwise the use of paper supplies is recommended.

 

Memorials: Garden, Niches, and Gifts to FUSN

The society maintains a Memorial Garden on the east side of the sanctuary (Highland Ave). Any member can have a name and years of birth and death inscribed on the monument.

There are niches for the interment of ashes located inside the sanctuary in the east (the pulpit) wall. The FUSN staff can help you to reserve a niche and order a brass plate for the wall.

The purchase cost for a niche with engraved plaque is $1,500. Engraved name and dates in the Memorial Garden cost $750. Memorialized both places, $2,000. There are also hardship discounts.

Memorial gifts may be made to the society to general funds or specific programs.

Upcoming Services

August 10, 2014 - 9:30am
August 17, 2014 - 9:30am
August 24, 2014 - 9:30am

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