Tuesday, January 24, 2006

What is a freakin' prayer service?

Rev. Darth and I were talking today about the 15% of the job that we both dislike (especially in South Dakota)...

The prayer service.

If you do not know what a "prayer service" is--please tell me. If you do know the meaning behind a prayer service, I would like to know that as well. I have consulted Cliff Clavin and Google. Google gave me this link.

When I write my book about South Dakota culture someday, I will describe what amounts to a second/first funeral. You get together the night before the funeral, gather family and friends with the body of the deceased--read Bible passages, have a reflection from the pastor and family members, maybe some music and prayers, even a little liturgy...this sounds like a funeral to me. I found it jerks the family around and it amounts to another funeral on the next day. One funeral seems like plenty to me.

Please excuse my ignorance...I have not spent my entire life in the Church, and the Church in the Pacific Northwest is a bit different than what I have experienced in the Midwest. But I never received information about a prayer service linked to a funeral in the life of the Church during my seminary training.

I am supposed to lead a prayer service Thursday night. I am tempted to start the service by offering a Trinitarian blessing (just to shock out the Presbyterians) then asking the question: "What is a freakin' prayer service?" I am certainly an advocate of prayer--but I don't believe the prayer service is for prayer. The event appears to be a visitation run amok. I think the prayer service in its current form was created by a moronic doormat co-dependent Lutheran pastor who was looking for a reason to hover over a grieving family. I know these folks exist--one of my fellow Lutheran pastors is well known for spending about 72 hours straight with a family when a death occurs.

If someone can explain to me the purpose of the prayer service-funeral tradition, I will gladly publish the writing and put my foot in my mouth. No colleague or funeral director can explain the origins of this practice, and it slips into the tradition of "well, we've always done it that way." I want to know WHY.


Pastor Elihu

1 comment:

Hawk said...


My guess is that someone somewhere thought that this is what the Episcopalians do. Using the BCP there is a service of Ministration @ the Time of Death which typically never happens. The service is like the RC "Last Rites" although it can happen hours or even days after the death. There is also "Prayer for a Vigil" which the BCP comments, "It is appropriate that the family and friends come together for prayers [i.e. Prayer Service] prior to the funeral [i.e. night before]. Suitable Psalms, Lessons, and Collects (such as those in the burial service) may be used. The Litany at the Time of Death may be said...

Anyway, you get the picture. I think "Prayer Service" is actually the Protestant way of saying "Wake" or "Vigil" without sounding to papist. Maybe a way to get rid of the "Prayer Service" is to point to its papal roots (or does that work anymore?).