As with many Christian and indeed post-Lutheran (faiths established after the splintering of Martin Luther from the Catholic Christian church) traditions Lutherans believe that people convert into souls after their body dies. Additionally most Lutherans believe that this soul then goes on to either one of two destinations from this point forward. Those who have abided by the churches rules and teachings will go to heaven (a joyous place which is described variously in Christian texts) or Hell (which is considered a place of pain and suffering). While approaches to what deeds or actions will lead to one or the other differ it is commonly agreed that it is their God’s choice as to who gets into heaven.
What’s different about a Lutheran funeral and lead up to the funeral?
Immediately prior to death for Lutherans is primarily made up of the usual collections of friends and family. Religious people and leaders may also attend the bedside where they would offer prayers and support however this is not strictly required. Like with most Christian faiths the ceremonies and burial or cremation (which is allowed in the Lutheran faith) will follow relatively soon after death occurs. The usual Christian sequence of death – dressing the body – viewing – mass service – burial holds true for Lutherans so for most there are few if any real surprises however this all depends on what one is accustomed to.
Where does a Lutheran ceremony take place?
The location of the viewing is down to the family and of course the wishes of the deceased but they are usually held in either the family home or a funeral home. The mass however is usually held at the local church or place of worship and it contains most of the rituals of Christian ceremonies. Cremation is permitted in the Lutheran faith so their may be a trip to either a graveside or a crematorium involved in the sequence. Like most reformist Christian faiths Lutherans are relatively minimalist in their approach so the Churches can be a little less ornate than that of say a Catholic Church.
What normally happens at a Lutheran funeral and what do non observers need to know?
Expect hymns, prayers, readings from holy books and communion (offering of sacred bread to those attending) at most if not all ceremonies. Generally people who have experience with other Christian funerals should not be surprised by any of the elements. Like with most faiths it is always helpful to consult with religious organisers, funeral homes or other organisers before making plans. If however you are just attending the funeral and happen not to be a Lutheran the usual rules of plain and non colourful clothes applies. Flowers are allowed however many families may have special requests of donations to charity in lieu (in place of) of floral donations.