Lutheran Funeral Service Rituals

Lutheran Funeral Customs
Lutheran Church of St. John the Baptist in Leningrad Region of Russia

In the latter part of the 15th century, Martin Luther, a German, was one of many who objected to the Roman Catholic teaching that one is saved by faith and good works.

In contrast, he believed in being saved by simply following Jesus. He also believed that the church should conduct services in the languages of its peoples and that the clergy should be able to marry. In response, the Church ousted Luther who then founded the Lutheran Church.

The faith spread and German and Scandinavian immigrants brought it to the US. Today, Lutherans can be described as either Evangelical Lutherans, who are more theologically liberal or a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod who are more conservative.

Lutherans regard death as a new beginning. They believe that those who have faith are assured eternal life with God. At the service, guests are ushered to seating. If arriving late, they do not enter during the procession or prayer.

A pastor presides over the service and reads from the Lutheran Book of Worship or The Lutheran Hymnal of Lutheran Worship. Christians are expected to fully participate, but non-Christians need not kneel, sing or pray with them. If interested in recording the service, permission should be received from the pastor prior to the service. There are no specific rituals for observing the anniversary of the death. While the Lutheran faith does not prohibit eulogies, the pastor will often include details about the deceased’s life in the sermon in lieu of a eulogy.

There is no rule concerning when the bereaved may return to work and social activities, but visits from friends after the funeral are welcome.

Lutheran Quick Reference Guide
Length of Service 30 minutes
Flowers? Yes (See our Sympathy Flowers)
Food? Yes
Dress Code? (Men/Women) Dark & Somber / Men: Jacket & Tie
Recording Devices? With pastor’s permission
Source of Readings? Lutheran Book of Worship
Open Casket? Possibly
Return to Work? (Days) Few
No. of Days to Mourn? Few weeks
Embalming?  Permitted
Cremation?  Up to the individual
Body/Organ Donation?  Accepted

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