A guide to help you plan a Jehovah’s Witness Funeral without complications – covers beliefs, rituals & other burial customs for a Jehovah’s Witness funeral
Planning a Jehovah’s Witness Funeral? 8 Jehovah’s Witness Beliefs to Consider…
The Jehovah’s Witness beliefs and traditions associated with a funeral ceremony and burial are not as complicated as some people may believe. By understanding a few customs, you will be able to plan a suitable Jehovah’s Witness Funeral that meets the beliefs and wishes of your loved one.
What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe happens when you die?
Members of the Jehovah’s Witness faith equate death to a very deep sleep: a state of total unconsciousness. They believe when a person dies, their existence comes to an end.
Some of the key Jehovah’s Witness beliefs around death are:
- Human beings do not have an immortal soul that survives when the body dies
- A hell where humans are tortured by God for eternity does not exist
- God will remember his chosen people
- These people may be resurrected
Death for a Jehovah’s Witness is therefore not something to be feared. Loved ones are also not to be ‘mourned’. Death is not a place of suffering, and there is always hope for eventual resurrection. This informs the mood around a Jehovah’s Witness funeral. A funeral is ultimately about paying respect to the deceased. It is not considered acceptable to display:
- Excessive mourning
- Excessive displays of grief
Behaving in the above manner indicates a lack of faith in the hope for resurrection.
What happens after a Jehovah’s Witness dies?
The process after death is similar to other Christian traditions:
- A funeral is arranged with your chosen funeral operative
- The body is prepared by a mortician to be present at the funeral service
- Embalming may be necessary if an open casket is preferred
- The service is planned according to the wishes of the deceased and the family
How do you plan a Jehovah’s Witness Funeral?
The funeral service should be held as soon as possible after the death. Usually, this means within a week. The ceremony should be short, and conducted by a church elder at the nearest Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is the place of worship for any local Jehovah’s Witness congregation. Jehovah’s Witnesses are encouraged to leave their wishes in writing before their death. This helps the family plan the funeral service. If the deceased did not make their wishes known, the family will need to decide:
- Whether to have an open or closed casket
- Whether embalming is necessary
- Whether a burial or cremation is preferred
- Their preferred readings or funeral scriptures
- Any music specially requested
Some songs that may be sang or played include: “Kingdom song of Jehovah’s Witnesses”, or “What sort of person should I be?”.
A Jehovah’s Witness funeral should be a modest service, rather than an opportunity to display one’s social or economic status. This means that cheap funeral plans are suitable, as long as the funeral plan is still respectful and honourable. Funeral directors in the UK will be able to help you plan a dignified funeral service, in keeping with the Jehovah’s Witness beliefs.
What are the Jehovah’s Witness Funeral Service rituals?
At a Jehovah’s Witness Funeral, the service is led by a Congregation Elder. There is no set order of events, but one can expect a combination of the following rituals:
- A talk highlighting the deceased’s life
- Any dying thoughts or messages left by the deceased
- Comforting words to the family and loved ones left behind
- Lessons and words from the Bible around death, and hope for a resurrection
Further readings and funeral scriptures may be read at the graveside or crematorium chapel.
What is the etiquette at a Jehovah’s Witness Funeral?
A Jehovah’s Witness funeral is an open service. Thus, mourners of all faiths are welcome to attend. The ceremony is an opportunity to pay your respects to the deceased in a dignified manner. The family and guests are expected to support one another, without excessive mourning or overt displays of grief.
Keep in mind that the service may be recorded on audio, but video recordings are not appropriate.
What to wear to a Jehovah’s Witness Funeral?
A Jehovah’s Witness Funeral is a somber occasion, so it is appropriate to wear modest, conservative clothes in dark or muted colours.
Men: should wear a suit and tie.
Women: should wear a modest dress or skirt.
Head coverings: are not necessary.
All clothing worn: should not call attention to itself.
What gifts of condolence can I bring?
Appropriate gifts of condolence are:
These should be sent to the family in mourning, before or after the funeral service.
Take care NOT to send:
- Flower arrangements intended for display at the funeral service
- Flower arrangements intended to cover the casket
- Arrangements in the form of any symbol, including a cross
Keep in mind that Jehovah’s Witness beliefs allow only God to be worshipped. Any other religious symbol (even the cross) is viewed as an idol.
What is a Jehovah’s Witness Funeral like?
The funeral service is a simple, formal affair. It is usually held at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The church elder will say a few words about the deceased and the life they lived. If the deceased was a particularly active member of the Jehovah’s Witness faith, the elder may expand on their life’s story as an example to follow.
A Jehovah’s Witness Funeral may have:
- An open or closed casket present
- Recitation of prayers and the reading of funeral scriptures
- Reading of words of comfort left by the deceased to their family and loved ones
- Food may be served at some point during the gathering
After the service, a burial or cremation takes place. Here, further prayers may be recited and funeral scriptures read.
How long is a Jehovah’s Witness Funeral?
The funeral is usually held at the local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, within a week of the death. The funeral service is a short ceremony, usually lasting between 15 and 30 minutes.
What are Jehovah’s Witness Burial Customs?
Jehovah’s Witness beliefs are in line with most other Christian faiths around funeral and burial rites. They are encouraged to follow the wishes of the deceased; left behind in a will and testament. If no instructions were left, then it is up to the family to decide on the preferred kind of burial.
Do Jehovah’s Witnesses allow embalming?
Jehovah’s Witness Funerals may have an open or closed casket present. If an open casket is preferred, it is acceptable to have the body embalmed. You funeral director or mortician would be able to advise on the embalming process, in keeping with Jehovah’s Witness beliefs.
What are the Jehovah’s Witness views on cremation?
Cremation is accepted as a burial practice because the physical body is not seen as a requirement for resurrection. One of the Jehovah’s Witness beliefs is that Christ was resurrected in spirit, and it was not his actual body that ascended. The Bible also does not explicitly condemn cremation:
in (Dan. 3:16-18) three Hebrews are condemned to burn in a furnace, by King Nebuchadnezzar. They tell the King they do not fear the burning furnace because God would still be able to resurrect them.
What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe is appropriate when mourning and remembering the dead?
Jehovah’s Witnesses do NOT believe in:
- Consciousness after death
The dead are thought to be in a state similar to a very deep sleep. They do not believe in ‘hell’, as it would be against God’s nature to torture human souls for eternity. Thus, death is not seen as something to fear.
For Jehovah’s Witnesses, the hope remains that the deceased shall be resurrected, and reunited with their family and friends. At Fenix Funeral Directors, we are here to assist you in planning a Jehovah’s Witness Funeral service which upholds the honour, dignity and respect expected of such an important event.
What are Jehovah’s Witness views on organ donation?
One of the Jehovah Witness beliefs is that blood is sanctified and represents life itself. For this reason, receiving blood transfusions and donating blood is prohibited. Organ donation or transplanting, however, is not expressly forbidden for Jehovah’s Witnesses.
May a Jehovah’s Witness attend the funeral of another faith?
Each Jehovah’s Witness may choose for him or herself whether to attend a funeral conducted by another religion. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses should not share in religious ceremonies that are considered out of harmony with the Bible.
Where are Jehovah’s Witness Funerals held?
The family may decide to hold a funeral at a funeral parlour, private home, crematorium or graveside. However, most Jehovah’s Witness Funerals are held at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witness. Our dedicated and caring team at Fenix Funeral Directors will always be happy to talk through these options with you, so that you get exactly the ceremony you require.