From our archive: writings from a century ago
Burial and Mourning Customs
Professional mourners are still a feature of Palestine life; just as they were in the Lord’s day (2 Sam. i. 17-27; Joel ii. 12, 13; Luke viii. 52). But we cannot imagine Christ approving of such; rather can we hear him exclaiming:
“Why make ye this ado and weep?”
when he seeth
“the tumult and them that wept an dwailed greatly ” (Mark v. 38, 39).
If we follow Christ we shall shun all the empty paraphernalia and outward show associated with “costermonger” funerals.
Brethren and sisters of Christ will dispense with “pallbearers”, “minister walking in front”, “chief mourners”, “mutes”, “velvet palls”, “ostrich feathers”, “burial feasts”, and expensive black clothes. On our part, it has been an invariable experience that the money, and time, and mourning expended on the funeral has been in the inverse ratio of the appreciation of the deceased during life.
Christadelphian Funerals are invariably distinguished for their simplicity and brevity.
The writer (who perhaps has conducted as many as any other one Christadelphian) usually adopts the following plan:
In the summer months, or even in the spring and autumn if the weather be fine and the followers be too numerous to be accommodated in the “Dissenters’ chapel”, requests the Undertaker to proceed direct to the grave.
After the reading of an appropriate chapter, such as John xi., or 1 Cor. xv., or 1 Thess. iv., he delivers a short address on the reason for the gathering, and then closes the service with prayer. A hymn or anthem has occasionally been included; but only when specially requested, as the immediate mourners are seldom in the mind for singing.
When the weather is inclement, then the service is conducted in the Chapel, and a prayer only is offered up at the graveside. On good authority, we know that many deaths occur through colds caught at the graveside, especially of the bereaved ones. On no account have we allowed the chaplain to assist.
A Christadelphian does all or nothing.