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BEREAVEMENT MINISTRY

The Beginning
In September 2001 the Bereavement ministry completed its first year of service to Christ
Church families in their loss of loved ones. At the initiative of Bonnie Polley, Deacon,
and under the leadership of Marguerite Cole, Deacon, the ministry was formed to provide
a greatly needed function. Members of the ministry have augmented their preparation
through study and discussion of the burial offices in the Book of Common Prayer and the
exchange of related information gathered from various sources.

The Numbers
The initial six members of the ministry have added nine more members, and more are
welcome. Since the group came together many families have been assisted.

The Functions
When a death is reported to the church office, a call is made to Marguerite Cole,
Director, who in turn notifies each member of the team and, with them, decides who will
be assigned to assist the family of the deceased. Ideally the ministers will work in pairs,
but because the group is small, the initial contact made with the bereaved family is often
by an individual who keeps in close touch with Marguerite. She then apprises the other
team members of upcoming responsibilities. By appointment a visit is made to the
family during which a two-page form, provided by the church office, is completed. The
time and date of the service is scheduled with the church office first and then with the
mortuary. Scriptures and music are discussed in detail with the family and their
selections are made. Ministry members provide information regarding liturgical
customs, the service program, obituary, homily, remembrances, memorials, flowers and
optional fees. The family designates and contacts pall bearers when needed. The
ministers work closely with the clergy and staff of Christ Church to make sure the service
is supportive, appropriate and comforting.

Flowers
It is customary and desirable in the Episcopal Church at funerals to have only altar
flowers which the family usually provides. The primary reasons for this custom: 1) It
equalizes the worth of the individuals being memorialized and honored (one is not more
important than another by the floral tributes presented.) 2) The money invested in floral
sprays, which quickly fade, could be put to ongoing productive use in one of the church’s
many funds or designated for a charity of the family’s choice (it is a matter of
stewardship). The placement in the church of any floral tributes is at the discretion of the
clergy.

Clergy and Staff
The family may request but cannot be promised a particular member of the clergy.
Availability is the criterion for the assignment of clergy. Contact is made through the
office for an organist, acolytes and ushers. Requests for unction (last rites) at the time of
death, reporting the death of a member of the household, or requests for services for the
deceased should be made directly to the Christ Church Office: (702) 735-7655 Ext. 201

Beyond the Service
Frequently a reception is desired following the service and the interment, at which the
families can gather with friends, empathize in their sorrow and share a time of
refreshment. The Bereavement Ministers call on other members of the household to
provide this kindness and usually participate in the tasks. However, the receptions are
not the primary function of the Bereavement Ministry. The foregoing and the following
are the focus of the group’s energies. For at least the first year following a death, a
bereavement minister stays in touch with the spouse or a key member of the family
through periodic phone calls and/or personal contact. Frequency and duration of contact
depends on the extent of the bereaved personal circle of support.

The Future
The Bereavement Ministry will continue its self-education process by inviting persons
with expertise in grief counseling to address its monthly meetings, by gathering resources
which families of the dying or deceased may need, and by becoming familiar with the
policies, facilities, and services of mortuaries in this community.