The first thing to note about Quakers is that they do not have one single concept on what happens after death. Like with most Quaker traditions and principles the funeral follows what the congregation refer to as a “meeting”. For outsiders it must be noted that the Quaker tradition, which does vary somewhat from region to region, is amongst the most highly involved in terms of their funerals. Like with many of the Quaker traditions the approach to funerals is focused on personal contributions, reflection and personal thought. What’s remarkable about this is that, without much use of standardised music or hymns, it is among one of the most unique of all funeral traditions.
What’s different about a Quaker funeral and lead up to the funeral?
In terms of the last moments just before death the Quaker tradition is not particularly unique. Prayers and religious reflections of life can take place however they are not considered essential. For the most part the last moments are spent with the friends and family of the deceased in the usual way. The key theme of most Quaker funerals and funeral ceremonies is to thank God for the life and to celebrate the life of the person who has passed. The framework for the funerals is relatively loose by Christian standards but can vary in strictness from locality to locality.
Where does a Quaker ceremony take place?
Viewings, wakes or visitations are not as common in the Quaker tradition as they are in other Christian traditions so it’s most common for the religious ceremony or “meeting” to be the most important element of a Quaker funeral ceremony. As it’s common for Quakers funerals to be attended by non Quakers the likelihood is that the ceremony will be explained to all those present before the ceremony gets underway. The actual rituals vary a little however the main point of the ceremony is that if anyone feels they wish to contribute they can do so. Most contributions are normally about the deceased person or about the nature of death.
What normally happens at a Quaker funeral and what do non observers need to know?
The Quaker funeral is not a sombre affair and quite unlike any other Christian tradition and the wearing of back or sombre clothing is not generally encouraged. As their are no strict rules relating to cremation, burial or organ donation there’s a lot of freedom with the choice of what to do with the body following death. Flowers are allowed but some may ask for contributions to charity in lieu of flowers so be sure to ask about this. In the end remember that Quakers are well use to other not knowing their traditions so they are very willing to guide non Quakers through the ceremony without any fuss.