The Ethical Culture Society provides funeral and memorial services at the time of death for members of the Society and people from the general community.
Funerals take place shortly after death, while memorials are held after a few days or weeks. In keeping with its humanistic ideals, Ethical Culture funerals and memorials are dedicated to honoring the unique personality, values and contributions of the person who recently has died.
While there is no set liturgy for the Ethical Culture funeral or memorial service, the Ethical Culture Leader who conducts the service welcomes the opportunity for family members, friends and others to participate in the service by sharing their memories of the deceased with those present. The service begins with the Ethical Culture Leader briefly talking about death and life within the context of humanistic values, and then reflecting on the life of the person we are recalling. This is usually followed by several statements prepared by people chosen by the family. An opportunity is then provided for all those present to spontaneously share their memories. The service ends with a closing reading and a minute of silence. Many services include music and flowers. Photos depicting the life of the person memorialized are often set up for display. A guest book is frequently provided.
Funerals and memorials can be held at established funeral homes, the Ethical Culture Society, or other locations. When the body is present, the service is most often conducted at a funeral home. When an earth burial is involved, a brief service is held at the gravesite as well.
The Ethical Culture Leader meets with family members in advance of the service as an opportunity to express grief, recount memories, and discuss details of the service. A fee for the leader’s service is set with regard to the financial circumstances of the family.
Ethical Culture funerals and memorial services create an atmosphere of simple dignity, serving honor the memory of the person who has died as well as bring mourners together to engage mutual support. Frequently family members will choose to hold an informal gathering after the service, either at the Ethical Culture Society, a home or other venue.
The following is a sketch of an Ethical Culture memorial service:
- Background music as people enter
- Welcome and opening statement by the Ethical Culture Leader
- Prepared statements by invited eulogists
- An opportunity for everyone to share memories and reflections
- A musical interlude
- A closing reading
- A moment of silence