The Baptist churches have their origins in the reformation movement in Europe. Baptism spread from Amsterdam to England and then across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States, where the largest Baptist congregations are now based.
The fundamental principle on which Baptism differentiates itself from other Christian churches is ‘believer’s baptism’. Whereas other parts of the Christian faith baptise infants at a very young age, Baptists believe that you need to be able to personally affirm your faith if the process is to hold any spiritual significance. Here, we take a look at the beliefs, customs and traditions surrounding Baptist funerals.
There is great variety in tradition, custom and belief among Baptists and this fact is reflected in Baptist funerals. While all Baptists are joined in the belief that only those who profess their faith in Jesus Christ should be baptised, other theological differences aren’t as divisive as in other sects of the Christian faith. This means funeral services can be personalised to a greater extent to reflect the life and opinions of the deceased. It also means there are diverse opinions on what death means. However, most Baptists believe that those people with faith in Jesus Christ will find salvation in him and go on to live forever by his side in heaven.
Baptist funeral customs
Diversity of belief between Baptist congregations means that some funerals will be joyous celebrations, while others will be more sombre affairs. The first step in organising a Baptist funeral is contacting the local deacon or pastor. They will assist in organising the funeral and ensure everything is as it should be.
A viewing service is common amongst Baptist congregations. This gives friends and family the opportunity to pay their respects and usually takes place a day or two before the funeral. The funeral itself is led by the local deacon or pastor. Often the casket is closed at the beginning of the service. In many cases, the service and readings will focus on the power of God and His role within everyone’s lives. It’s not unusual for there to be little said about the deceased’s life. Music and the reading of scripture both play an important part in Baptist funerals and both religious and popular music may be heard.
Once the service is complete, it is traditional for prayers to be said and scripture read by the grave site. Once the coffin has been lowered into the ground, the mourners often disperse and reconvene at a reception at the family home, the church or a public space. Food is sometimes provided and it’s usual for mourners to contribute to the meal.
Baptist Funeral etiquette and other customs
Traditionally, mourners are expected to dress respectfully in black and clothes that reveal too much skin are not considered appropriate. However, some families may ask mourners to dress in brightly coloured clothes in honour of the deceased. Sending flowers to the family of the deceased is also common, although individuals may be asked to donate to charity instead.