The funeral service
The funeral service takes place in a cemetery chapel, in a church or at the grave. In the chapel or church, the immediate family is seated in the front on the right side of the aisle as seen from the door, and other relatives behind them.
The funeral service follows the order described in the Church Handbook. The service begins with a hymn or an instrumental prelude, which is followed by an invocation and introductory words by the pastor. Before the words of committal, the pastor gives a speech, for which it would be good for the family to meet the pastor in advance. With the words of committal, the pastor pours sand on the coffin. The congregation stands during the Scripture reading and words of committal. If the deceased is buried immediately after the service in a coffin, the coffin is carried from the church during the postlude. In case of an urn burial, the coffin usually remains in front of the altar after the service. The funeral service can also be held as a funeral mass with the inclusion of the Holy Communion.
A printed funeral service programme can also be used if the family so wishes. In addition to the deceased’s name and birth and death dates, the programme should include the process of the service and the hymn lyrics.
Laying the flowers and approaching the coffin are the moment to pay one’s last respects. Gratitude, memories and prayers are central to this. Silence or reading a greeting or a verse from the Bible can be used to convey the prayers. Flowers are laid on the coffin either before or after the service. Agree on this with the pastor. Close family members lay their flowers on the coffin first, usually reading aloud the names and the greetings on the ribbons or cards attached to the flowers. Any longer speeches are best saved for the funeral reception.
Mourners only stay by the coffin for a short moment. Having laid their flowers on the coffin, they take a silent moment and then turn toward the family and make a small bow of acknowledgement before returning to their seats. In case of a coffin burial, where the deceased is taken to the grave in a procession, flowers can also be laid at the grave if weather permits. If flowers are placed on the coffin in the chapel and the deceased is taken to the grave in a procession, people collect their flower arrangements after the final hymn and take them to the grave. Greetings are not read again beside the grave, but the flowers are simply laid on the grave.
In case of an urn burial, flowers are laid on the coffin in the chapel. After the funeral service, you can take the flowers to a family grave, if you like. Flowers left in the chapel will not be kept until the collection of the urn. You should ask what procedure is followed and agree on what should be done with the flowers after the ceremony.
The funeral procession
Mourners proceed to the grave in a procession, guided by an attendant and followed by the bearers of the coffin, then the immediate family and after them the rest of the mourners. The pastor walks either ahead of the coffin or behind it with the family.
Mourners remain silent during the procession. Silence gives an opportunity to process your grief, show quiet respect and pray. Male relatives of the deceased usually act as pallbearers. The closest relatives are customarily at the head of the coffin or furthest back, as the coffin is always carried foot-end first. If there are no suitable pallbearers in the family, you can ask the funeral office to arrange bearers. The coffin is carried out of the chapel during the postlude and placed on a hearse waiting outside.
Anyone unable to walk can join the procession in a car or go directly to the grave by car. When at the grave, the coffin is placed with the head-end toward the tombstone. When the coffin is lowered, male mourners take off their hats. The bearers do this only after having lowered the coffin into the grave, after which they stand for a moment at the graveside.
The pastor can say a short prayer. These days, the grave is not filled straightaway but covered with a lid. The family may want to throw some soil or flowers on the coffin before this is done. If they so wish, the family can put enough soil on the grave to cover the coffin. This should be agreed on in advance. After the flowers have been laid on the grave, it is customary to sing a hymn. Then one of the mourners presents an invitation to the funeral reception, if one is to be held.
The funeral reception
The funeral reception can be held at home, in the parish hall, in a restaurant or any other suitable place. The use of parish halls for funeral receptions is free of charge for parish members. The family can take care of the catering themselves or hire a catering service. At the reception, there is usually a table covered with a white tablecloth with a photo of the deceased, one or two candles and flowers. The pastor will naturally attend the reception if invited. You can already invite him or her when arranging the funeral service.
The pastor can also help you plan the programme for the reception. Often the programme includes reading cards of condolences, singing together, the pastor’s speech, a eulogy, other short speeches and musical performances.
The crematoria of the Parish Union of Helsinki are located in Malmi and Honkanummi. There is also the private Finnish Cremation Foundation in Helsinki. You can arrange the cremation and the time for the interment of the urn with the Central Registry of the Parish Union of Helsinki. Ashes can also be buried without an urn.
The interment of the urn or ashes is usually only attended by the immediate family, under the guidance of an attendant. If you wish, you can also invite the pastor. You can have a moment of prayers at the graveside. Brochures on interment with advice on prayers are available at chapels, or you can ask the pastor for a copy.
Such a moment of prayers can also be held when a coffin is interred separately from the funeral service, for example, when the grave is in a different town. When the urn is placed in the Kallio Church, the parish will take care of its transfer from the crematorium in Helsinki. Before the urn is placed in the columbarium, the family can have a moment of prayers at the memorial altar. The space seats five people. Funerals for non-members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland The cemeteries of the Helsinki parishes are public cemeteries for people who were resident in Helsinki at the time of their death. In Honkanummi, there is also a denominational cemetery for those who wish not to be buried in a Christian cemetery.
While there are Orthodox, Jewish and Islamic cemeteries in Helsinki, members of these religions can also be buried in Lutheran cemeteries. A funeral service can be held for a person who was not Christian if the family so request and the pastor thinks that there are grounds for a Christian funeral ceremony. However, no funeral service is held if the deceased has expressed a wish not to have a Christian funeral. The funeral service for a non-member is the same as for a member of the church. Chapels can also be hired for funeral ceremonies of other denominations and nondenominational funerals, but in these cases the programme of the ceremony has to be delivered to the chapel for approval in advance.