About death and burial
Christians often speak of joy at the time of death because we believe that death is an entry into life everlasting, a life lived fully with God. Grief has its place and the tears we shed are an important part of our prayer at the time of death. Christians give thanks for the lives of those we mourn and we honor them even in our grief.
A part of living faithfully means that we try to be good stewards or caretakers of all that God has given us. But stewardship does not end with death. As Christians, we take seriously what happens to our bodies and we take special care with those who we no longer see. Good stewardship of God’s gift of life includes having a legal will. Good stewardship includes our declaring what limitations we might wish to place on acute medical care. Good stewardship includes helping others know how we would like for our body to be honored.
In the Episcopal Church cremation is an acceptable alternative to the interment of the body. The cremated remains of a body are now called “cremains.” Cremains may be placed in the burial vault at Saint Mary’s, located just opposite the Lady Chapel in the church. There are shelves inside the vault where urns may be placed. When urns are placed in the vault, families make a contribution toward the eventual building of a more permanent columbarium.
The liturgy for the Burial of the Dead is also a place to acknowledge outwardly a sense of thanksgiving for the life we are given. The liturgy is also an expression of our belief that nothing can separate us from each other in Christ. We still love, care and pray for those who have died, and we believe they still love, care and pray for us. It is extremely helpful if you let the parish know if you would like particular arrangements regarding the liturgy. These plans are then kept on file in the parish office. Plans for musicians and participants in the service can be made in advance.
Other items to be considered are where and when your family and friends might gather. Plans can be made in advance for the kind of reception or gathering you might find appropriate. For example, instead of the funeral home, you may wish to have the coffin in the Mercy Chapel of the church and receive your family and friends there on the evening before the liturgy. Saint Joseph’s Hall might be an appropriate location for a reception after the liturgy on the day of the funeral.
At the Time of Death
An important way to prepare is to have a “call list” both for yourself and for those who will have to deal with your death when it occurs. This is especially important if you live alone. Members of your family should be aware of this list and know where you keep it. We suggest that the list include the names and telephone numbers of the following people:
1. Family members or friends
2. The clergy
Please remember that all of the Saint Mary’s clergy have publicly listed phone numbers and are available through directory assistance.
3. An undertaker or funeral home
Saint Mary’s normally uses
Morehead-McKim & Gallaher Funeral Directors
424 West 51st Street
New York, New York 10019
4. Three close friends (or include the clergy of the church)
5. Your attorney
The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin can provide you with a form for your own preferred funeral arrangements. The form can be completed and returned to the parish office where it will remain in your parish file until needed. We suggest that members of your family keep a copy of the preparatory arrangements and the call list.
Remember: Do not include requiem or funeral service arrangements in your will, since the legal will is probated sometime later.
The Saint Mary’s Burial Vault
If you choose to inter your cremains at Saint Mary’s, fees for this are normally taken care of at the time of the requiem. The current fee schedule is included below. Requests to lower or waive fees may be made to the rector.
As an alternative to flowers, you may ask mourners to designate a gift to the memorial fund of Saint Mary’s. The capital of this fund is held as an ongoing memorial: the interest used to further the mission of the church. In addition, you may also be interested in establishing a specific memorial fund endowed by you and your family.
The specific language for including Saint Mary’s in your will is to be made in this form:
“I hereby give, devise, and bequeath to the Society of the Free Church of St. Mary the Virgin, a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of New York, and having its principal office at 145 West 46th Street, New York City, [here state the nature or amount of the gift.]”
One gift that the dead give the living is the opportunity to gather in fellowship, to share stories and memories and to draw strength from one another. Saint Mary’s invites you to use Saint Joseph’s Hall as a place to gather after the liturgy. The parish office will be happy to help you locate an appropriate caterer or to help coordinate volunteers for a simple affair.
After the funeral
Grieving is a long-term process. As each holiday is marked and memories are sorted out, there may be times when the clergy may be of help. We hope you will not hesitate to call.
We pray for the dead every day at Saint Mary’s. At the daily Mass we include the names of departed members of the parish during the week of their yearly anniversary of death.