St. Anthony on the Desert End of Life Ministries
This page seeks to answer the most frequently asked questions surrounding death and Christian burial. The Church wants to help Christians prepare for their own deaths, and to help friends and family facing the challenge of burying someone they love. Please know that our clergy and staff are friendly resources who are here to assist you in any way they can.
Dying is the process of returning to the earth from which we came, and of turning toward God from whom we came. Death is the sacramental moment of our returning. At burial, the Christian community gathers to celebrate its faith.
The burial is an Easter liturgy. It finds all its meaning in the Resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, Christians, too, will be raised. Christian burial reflects joy in the certainty that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38) We offer prayers for the dead, entrusting them to God's love and mercy.
Alongside our Resurrection hope, our human grief remains. The very love we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted by death. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend. So while we give thanks for the Resurrection of Christ, which enfolds us all, we who continue in this life grieve our loss. Therefore our liturgy also asks God to comfort those who mourn.
The Book of Common Prayer notes that Christians are normally buried from their parish church. This implies that either their bodies, or their cremated remains, will be present for the burial liturgy, and then committed to a permanent place of rest. Our physical bodies, Scripture tells us, are temples of the Holy Spirit, visible signs of our spiritual presence in the world. It is fitting that they be honored in Christian burial.
In Anticipation of Death
Our society routinely avoids speaking about death, but the Church does not. Over the centuries we have gathered Scriptures, songs, and prayers which enfold the pain and trauma of separation and loss within a larger vision. The Church is not afraid to speak of death because we are a community of faith, hope, and love.
It is prudent to begin thinking about your own funeral well beforehand. Thoughtful foresight allows the liturgy to express your Christian faith authentically while helping family and friends understand your personal wishes. The parish clergy are pleased to meet with you to review the options available for prayers, hymns, and Scripture readings appropriate for burial.
It is also prudent to discuss with your physician, and put into writing, the types of medical treatment that you desire in case of debilitating illness.
Planning for Death: A Checklist
Go to the AZ Attorney General website at http://azag.gov/life_care/index.html#materials for life care planning materials for AZ residents.
- Keep your will current, with copies on file in both your attorney’s office and your safe deposit box.
- Designate the charitable organizations to which friends and family may donate in memory of your life and work. It is always appropriate to include your parish church.
- Select a funeral home and a place for burial; the St. Anthony staff is happy to discuss parish Columbarium niches and other choices with you.
- Arrange with your physician for a Living Will; discuss it with your family; leave a copy with your doctor, in your safe deposit box, and in your attorney’s office.
- Meet with the parish clergy to plan your funeral liturgy ahead of time.
- Review the arrangements you have made with trusted friends and family.
At the Time of Death
The family should notify the church office (480-451-0860) when a death has occurred. This will allow for pastoral support as well as assistance with preparations for the funeral service. A bulletin listing the order of service, as well as the names of pall bearers, readers, ushers and others assisting with the service will be prepared by the parish office. A second brochure from the mortuary is not needed. The parish will also arrange for musicians if desired by the family. The parish clergy, organist, and staff are here to help you with all aspects of planning and celebrating Christian burial. Please call on us whenever the need arises.
About the Funeral
The church is the appropriate place for funerals. It is customary for the remains to be present for the service, either in an urn (for ashes) or a coffin.
Flowers are symbols of resurrection and are always appropriate at funerals. However, since urns and caskets are covered with a cloth called a pall, which symbolizes our equality before God in death (and recalls the white garment of baptism) floral casket sprays are not used. A family arrangement may be placed at the urn or on a stand near the altar. Additional floral displays are unnecessary, but if they are delivered to the church, they may be placed in the narthex (entry hall). Flowers from the narthex or the stand in the church may be taken to the cemetery. Flowers are also appropriate at the reception or delivered to the family, but many families prefer to recommend charities, including St. Anthony, that well-wishers may want to support instead of giving flowers.
The family usually gathers in the parish hall before the service, although some prefer to be seated in the front pews as they arrive. At the appointed time, the procession forms in the narthex, led by the crucifer. The family is appropriately included in the procession if they desire.
You will find several forms for the Burial of the Dead in the Book of Common Prayer on pages 468-507. It is appropriate for family members to participate in the service by reading lessons or prayers.
The Eucharist (Holy Communion) is an appropriate part of the service, making the funeral similar to Sunday services at St. Anthony. All baptized persons are welcome to receive the Sacrament at this special time, an occasion of solidarity and solace for all who grieve. Sharing Communion among those who mourn is itself an occasion for comfort and hope, and it reminds us again of the Heavenly Banquet which surpasses all limits of time and space. In the Eucharist all Christians, the living and dead together, join in celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus.
Eulogies are not customary in the Episcopal Church. The focus of Christian burial is properly on Christ's victory over the powers of darkness and death. It is an Easter service. Since those present already know the one who has died, review of years past is not necessary. If it is desired to share such remembrances they may best take place at a reception following the service.
At the conclusion of the service, it is customary for the family to follow the crucifer and clergy out in procession. If the Committal takes place in St. Anthony’s courtyard columbarium, the family and congregation will process outside for this portion of the service. If the burial is in a local cemetery, the family and guests follow the funeral coach there in procession. It is also appropriate for the committal to be held at a time separate from the burial service if so desired by the family.
A Word about Cremation
Cremation, an ancient practice anthropologists have discovered in many ages and places past, is gaining popularity in our day. St. Anthony has a columbarium for the convenience of members of the parish who may wish to use it for loved ones or themselves.
Accordingly, we treat the deceased body reverently, not simply out of respect for the departed person, but out of reverent awe in the presence of God’s handiwork. Whether we burn or bury the body, it passes from our sight, but it can never pass from God’s sight.
The Book of Common Prayer identifies scripture readings especially appropriate for the burial service.
Old Testament Readings
- Isaiah 25:6-9 [He will swallow up death forever]
- Isaiah 61:1-3 [To comfort those who mourn]
- Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-33 [The Lord is good to those who wait for him]
- Wisdom 3:1-5, 9 [The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God]
- Job 19:21-27a [I know that my Redeemer lives] Psalms: 23, 27, 42, 46, 90, 106, 116, 121, 130, 139
New Testament Readings
- Romans 8:14-19, 34-35, 37-39 [The glory that shall be revealed]
- 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 35-38, 42-44, 53-58 [The imperishable body]
- 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:9 [Things that are unseen are eternal]
- 1 John 3:1-2 [We shall be like him]
- Revelation 7:9-17 [God will wipe away every tear]
- Revelation 21:2-7 [Behold, I make all things new]
- John 5:24-27 [He who believes has everlasting life]
- John 6:37-40 [All that the Father gives me will come to me]
- John 10:11-16 [I am the good shepherd]
- John 11:21-27 [I am the resurrection and the life]
- John 14:1-6 [In my Father’s house are many rooms]
Receptions in the Parish Hall
As part of our Open Hands and Hearts Ministry we are pleased to host a simple reception in the parish hall as a place for family and friends to gather following the burial liturgy. Our ministry team will serve finger foods and beverages and handle necessary set-up and clean-up for a two hour reception. If the family desires a more elaborate catered reception they will need to coordinate this with the parish office.
Honoraria and Donations
Additional Musicians: fees negotiated
The church charges no fees for funeral services, however, donations to the church and/or the Rector’s Discretionary Fund are gratefully received in support of our on-going ministry.
Grief Support – Walking the Mourner’s Path
In order to accomplish the task of assisting those whose lives are negatively affected by grief, Walking the Mourner’s Path was started in 1995 in response to an unmet need for long-term, meaningful psychological and spiritual comfort for those who mourn. This was accomplished by training clergy and laity to lead Christ-centered grief support courses in congregations and other settings. This ministry has trained hundreds of course facilitators and conducted support workshops throughout the country. The value of this work gained national recognition when, in conjunction with the Episcopal and Lutheran churches, Mourner’s Path trainers taught local religious and lay leaders to offer GriefRelief in New York after the 911 tragedy. This international ministry is owned by St. Anthony on the Desert and is operational in twenty-six states, Canada, Australia and the Cayman Islands. For information about Walking the Mourner’s Path, please contact Catherine Gilbert.
- Drop in on the Sunday Cafe
This gathering happens most Sundays in the Parish Hall after the 10 a.m. worship services with relevant and interactive adult discussions. Have a cup of coffee, a bite to eat and make some new friends. See you there.
- Service Times
Holy Communion & Healing Service
This noonday service combines prayers for healing with a celebration of the Eucharistic. This intimate service is held in our Chapel of St. Luke the Physician. Laying on of hands is offered for those seeking healing.
Holy Communion 8:00 a.m. Are you an early riser? Join us for a more intimate service of Holy Eucharist with organ and cantor.
Holy Communion 10:00 a.m. This service time meets the needs of many families as we offer a staffed nursery as well as programs for children and youth. The Holy Eucharist is celebrated with gifted musical support from our various choirs.
Third Sunday As the name suggests on the Third Sunday of each month (September through May) our 10 am service provides a special emphasis on children and youth. A bit more abbreviated liturgy incorporates a children’s sermon.
For special service times
Call (480) 451-0860
- start the day...
Gratefulness – the simple response of our heart to this life in all its fullness – goes beyond boundaries of creed, age, vocation, gender, and nation. Start each day with a word of gratefulness.
Gratefulness - Labryinth
Take a moment during your day to walk the labyrinth. You’ll be so glad you did.