Unitarian Universalist rituals are called memorial service, whether or not the deceased’s body is present. Most services take place at the church or a funeral home chapel within one week of the death but may occur up to one month following death. The family determines the best time to schedule the memorial service.
If you wish to offer your condolences, you may call or visit the family. You may also wish to send flowers to the family prior to the memorial service at their home. Preparing meals for the family is also appreciated, and can be sent to the home of the bereaved after learning of the death or following the memorial service.
While each service varies depending on the wishes of the deceased and the wishes of the family, most Unitarian Universalist funeral services last anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, but may go longer. The church minister gives a meditation and sermon. Someone chosen by the family will deliver a eulogy for the deceased, and musical selections are usually performed by a pianist or organist. A service program is handed out to visitors, which lists the order of services and those officiating. It is common for those in attendance to sing from the Singing the Living Traditional hymnal.
Most Unitarian Universalist funerals are not open casket, although a visitation is sometimes held before the service at the funeral home or the church. Green burials are sometimes chosen by the deceased or the family. However, both cremation and embalming are acceptable practices in the Unitarian Universalist faith.
At the service, it is appropriate to sign the guestbook. When taking your seat, reserve the first two or three rows for the deceased’s close relatives. If there happens to be an open casket at the ceremony, guests should not feel like they are expected to view the body. While picture and video are out of the question, audio recordings are acceptable with the family’s permission. Guests may choose to read prayers and sing along throughout the service. However, if you feel this goes against your own religious customs, it is perfectly acceptable to remain silent.
After interment, a post-service reception is typically held by the family members. Food and possibly alcohol are served, but no further religious services are held. In some cases, the family may opt to meet with visitors at a restaurant instead.
The mourning period is left up to the bereaved. Some choose to stay away from work or social events for a few weeks or just a few days.