Chapter 4

Welcome, Share Information and Announcements

The opening remarks, which include an introduction of yourself and a welcome, set the tone for the service. Do you want a more casual affect or formal service?

I suggest you keep your welcome to a minimum. The welcome can consist of a few simple opening lines to tell them who you are and what your role is. You’ll want to avoid clichés such as “We are gathered here today” or “Dearly beloved”.  

Welcome those attending and state why you have gathered. Acknowledging each family member by their name and their relationship to the deceased at the beginning of the ceremony is a good way to directly engage each person. It also helps everyone to recall names and relationships for the visitation afterwards. One way to do this is to use the printed obituary listing of relatives. As you read look directly at each person named and indicate by hand motion who is who. You can also get the family to help you identify individuals. Those who are listed but could not be present can also be mentioned. Here is an example.    

“[Name] was the wife/husband/partner of [Name]. Father/Mother of [Name] and [Name]. [Number] Grandchildren [Names]; and [number] great-grandchild/children [Name].  [Name] was the brother/sister of the late [Name]; and life-long friend of [Name].

Immediately following the introduction and welcome, it is my preference to announce any post-service burials or social gatherings and other after-affairs. This announcement could be about a graveside service, meal or wake, home reception or other scenario. By getting any business out of the way at the beginning of the service, you’ll maintain the quiet sacred moment and intimate mood at the end of the service.

Here is a simple introduction you might use or adapt to begin.

“I welcome each of you here today. My name is [Name], and it's a privilege and honor to officiate at the funeral of such a well-liked and respected woman/man.”

Then, continue with your greeting. Here are some useful phrases, short sentences, wording, and a reading to help.

“Welcome to this celebration of [Name’s] life, who [died, passed, entered into rest, went to be with his beloved wife/husband], on [date]. [Name] was a dear friend of mine, and I am very honored to be here today as we remember them and reflect on their life.”

“We’ve come together from far and near, at different points in our lives.  We may look at life in different ways and hold a variety of beliefs. But the one thing we have is common is that [Name] at one point or another, touched our life.”

“We’re here this morning to bid a sad but fond farewell to [Name]. We are also here to honor and pay tribute to their life, and to express our sincere admiration for them.  So, we set aside this brief hour from our usual daily lives to express our thoughts and feelings at this time of loss.”

“I know that today is a sad day, but I hope at the end of this farewell ceremony for [Name] you will feel glad that you took the opportunity to do some of your grieving with others who have known and loved [Name].”

“Today we have gathered here to pay our last respects and to say our final farewells to [Name]. Sadly I never had the privilege of knowing [Name], but I have had the pleasure of spending time with their family this past week, and our conversations have left me with a very clear impression of the kind of person [Name] was.”

“Today is a day for reflection and it will be remembered for many reasons.  Mainly, I hope it will be remembered as a very special day when you shared time with others to pay your last respects as you say a sad and fond farewell to [Name].

You might also begin with a short reading.  

“We begin with a reading; Our Lives Matter by M. Maureen Killoran.

We come together from the diversity of our grieving,
to gather in the warmth of this community
giving stubborn witness to our belief that
      In times of sadness, there is room for laughter.
      In times of darkness, there always will be light.
May we hold fast to the conviction
     that what we do with our lives matters
     and that a caring world is possible after all.”

The following words could be used when a religious service is not being held.   

“I know there may be those among you for whom religious faith is a central part of life, and who are more familiar with a different form of service, but I hope we can agree that the human values we all share; are of far more lasting importance than those matters which may divide us.”

“[Name] had some very specific wishes regarding this gathering time.  It was [Name’s] wish that it should be kept simple, dignified and sincere, unmarked by religious ceremony or staid tribute. We strive now to respect these wishes.”  

“As we begin let’s spend a few moments in silence to remember [Name] in your own special way.  Those of you who do have a particular religious faith might wish to use this time for your own private prayers.”  

“You who knew [Name] know that [Name] was not one to make a fuss.  So you will not be surprised that it was [Name’s] explicit instructions that we should have a short, simple and sincere service.  And, it is my humble priviledge to play a small part in helping you honor [Name’s] request.”  

Next, here is where you can give any brief announcements, invitations, or directions for after the service. Here are a few examples. 

“Following our service, the family invites you to join them in the continuing celebration of [Name’s] life.  They invite you to a luncheon at [place] to share stories and remember a life lived to the fullest.”

“In continuing remembrance of [name] refreshments will be served in the Social Hall following the service.”

“Following this service we will be going to the burial site to lay [Name] to rest. Those who wish are welcome to join the family in a final farewell. Those who are not going to the burial are welcome to join the family at [place] afterwards.”       

Perhaps you noticed that in each opening phrase I pointedly inserted the person’s name more than once. One of our biggest fears is that the people we love will be forgotten. When no one mentions their name the loneliness we already feel can be magnified.  In a way, it calls forth the presence of the loved one who is no longer among them. It comforts the mourners to hear that the person is remembered and will not be forgotten. There is power in saying a name.