Funeral or Memorial Service at the Danish Lutheran Church of Vancouver, B.C.

With joy we approach our Father’s land,
where day is forever dwelling,
where ready for us His mansions stand,
where heaven with praise is swelling;
and there we shall walk in endless light,
with blest ones His praise forth telling.
N.F.S. Grundtvig, 1826.

To take leave of a loved one is not an easy task, but it may still be a very beautiful and healing experience. Having a ritual for the last goodbye can be a great comfort, especially a ritual that bridges the past, present, and future.

If you want a Christian funeral service, the deceased must be a baptised Christian. (Except, of course, in the case of children who die before being baptised.) You do not need to be a Dane or have family ties to our church; however, if our pastor or our building is busy, we hope that you will understand that we give priority to those who have some connection to our church or to Scandinavia.

Contacting the pastor

To arrange a funeral or memorial service in our church, please contact our pastor: or by phone at 604.525.9894. The pastor will come to your home or meet you in the church to arrange the funeral or memorial service. Please contact the pastor before setting the final date of the funeral.

The funeral or memorial service itself usually takes place in our church, but if you prefer, our pastor can come to a funeral home of your choice.

You are most welcome to contact our pastor well before there is a need for a funeral service. Home and hospital visits are an important part of our pastor's work, and getting to know the pastor outside of the Sunday service is beneficial for all parties.

Funeral director

You need a funeral director (or undertaker) to help you with the practical matters. Most funeral directors would like to meet with you in the funeral home office but some may, as in Denmark, come to your home or any other place of your convenience. With the director you decide the many practical matters regarding casket, burial or cremation, flowers, obituary, paperwork, etc. Our pastor has years of experience with this and can support you through some of the choices, if you wish.

The service

The service can take one of four forms:

  1. Funeral Service with grave side committal. The casket is present in the Sanctuary during the service. After the service, the congregation follows the hearse to the cemetery where our pastor does the committal (the three handfuls of sand on the casket, the Lord’s Prayer, and the blessing) while the casket is sitting at the top of the grave.
  2. Funeral Service with committal in the Sanctuary. The casket is present in the Sanctuary during the service. The pastor does the committal (the three handfuls of sand on the casket, the Lord’s Prayer, and the blessing) in the Sanctuary as part of the service. After the service, the casket is taken to the hearse outside the church. The congregation watches the hearse leave. Burial or cremation may follow. In case of cremation, you may want to scatter the ashes in our Scattering Garden.
  3. Funeral Service after cremation. The urn with the ashes of the deceased is placed on a little table in front of the altar. The pastor does the committal (the three handfuls of sand on the urn, the Lord's Prayer, and the blessing) in the Sanctuary as part of the service. If you wish, the service can conclude with scattering of the ashes under the dolmen on our front lawn.
  4. Memorial Service. Neither casket nor urn is present. In most cases a little table is put up in front of the altar where you may place a picture of the deceased along with flowers and a candle.

The service usually lasts about half an hour (provided only the pastor gives a eulogy). Scattering of the ashes immediately after the service adds five to ten minutes.

Decorating the Sanctuary

Pews with candles Regardless of the form of service, you may want to decorate the church. You are expected to provide flowers for the two large vases on the altar. The vases are about 8 inches tall and have an inside diameter of a little more than 2 inches. Keep in mind that the wall behind the altar is red. We will put candles in the holders in the pews. If a table is put up in front of the altar (in the absence of the casket), you may decorate that table with a picture of the deceased and flowers of your choice; we provide a candle.

Some families make a small display of photos of the deceased in the church hall if they have refreshments there after the service.

In our experience, two people can easily set the upstairs and the downstairs in less than half an hour (most of the time in ten minutes). You can expect the church to be open about one hour before the service is to begin. Florists may deliver during this time—or during office hours.

Hymns

The funeral or memorial service includes two to four hymns. We prefer that you choose hymns from our hymnal, Grant me, God, the Gift of Singing (or Den Danske Salmebog)., but if you have special requests, please inform the pastor, who will of course be glad to assist you.

Language

Funeral and memorial services are usually mainly in English but you may want part of the service to be in Danish. For example, the Lord’s Prayer (Fadervor), the Benediction, or even a hymn could be in Danish.

Eulogy

The funeral or memorial service includes a formal eulogy. In Danish tradition, the pastor delivers the eulogy while family and friends give more informal speeches during coffee after the service. In our experience, sharing memories of the deceased in this way is easier for most people.

However, if you wish, family or friends may give the eulogy. When preparing the eulogy, keep in mind that 500–550 words is a good length.

If family members or friends would like to speak but cannot be present, our pastor (or someone else) can read a letter as part of the service or during coffee. The pastor will talk this over with you when you meet.

Pallbearers

If the casket is present at the service, you will need six pallbearers to carry the casket out to the waiting hearse after the service. Please plan that the pallbearers are seated so that they can easily be available when needed.

Refreshments

If you desire, the Ladies Auxiliary to our church can arrange refreshments in the Church Hall after the service. You may either contact the Auxiliary directly (see the church newsletter) or through the office: or by phone at 604.298.6112.

Some like a Danish style luncheon, while others prefer coffee and wienerbrød (Danish pastry). The Auxiliary buys the foods, prepares and serves them, sets the table and cleans up afterwards.

After the service

You may wish to place a plaque in our Memorial Walk. This can be done immediately after the service if the plaque can be made in time, or the plaque can be installed at a later date.

That the funeral or memorial service is over does not mean that your grief is over. If we can help with anything, please ask. And do come to church so that you too can be comforted by the hope of life eternal. As part of our service on All Saints' Sunday, our pastor reads the names of those whose lives have been celebrated with a funeral or memorial service in our church during the past year.

Donation

We do not charge a fee for a funeral or memorial service. We do however expect a donation. Your donation should cover the pastor’s and organist’s time, the candles (if wanted), song sheets, clean-up etc. If the Ladies Auxiliary provided refreshments after the service, they will pass their out-of-pocket expenses to you. You may want to thank the Ladies Auxiliary by donating a sum to them. Thank you!