Memorial Meeting Handbook

May 2002, November 2015, March 2020 – revised

This handbook has been developed to assist families of the meeting and committees of the meeting in dealing with the circumstances of a memorial service for worship. The objective of this document is to provide clarity on what persons, or committees within the meeting, are responsible for the elements involved with a memorial service. Procedures outlined should be followed as closely as possible.

Suggestions for additions or changes are welcome and should be directed to a member of the Worship and Ministry Committee of the Meeting.


The Coordinator of Memorial Services is someone from the Worship & Ministry Committee chosen specifically to be the contact person and the one who oversees and coordinates the various activities described in this handbook.

Worship & Ministry Committee determines who will be the coordinator (assume primary responsibility for preparations) and who will conduct the memorial service. Request that other meeting members help with ushers, parking, kitchen, childcare, clean up, AV.

Notification of the death of a member, attender, or other person involved with the life of the meeting should be given to the Coordinator as soon as possible. Where the family is unable to initiate this contact, a meeting member or other person is asked to make the Coordinator aware so that contact with the family can be initiated. A funeral director, if utilized, should also be encouraged to contact the Coordinator.

If the Coordinator is not available, contact should be made with the Clerk or any other member of Worship and Ministry, or the Clerk of the Meeting so that another coordinator can be named.

The Coordinator, working with the family, will undertake the following:


1. Notify Clerk of Meeting, Worship & Ministry, and Clerk of Care & Counsel of the death. Care & Counsel may assume a helpful role in dealing with the family’s bereavement.

2. Contact Building & Grounds Committee Clerk: In consultation with the family and the Clerk of Building & Grounds, coordinate scheduling a date (that is open on the Meeting calendar) for the memorial service if to be at Newtown Meetinghouse.  Make sure it gets on meeting calendar. Coordinate with facilities liaison at other facility if elsewhere (ie Pennswood, George School). B&G can also help with parking.

3. Write an announcement of the death to be read after the next Meeting for Worship and arrange with the communications committee to publish word of the death. This should be brief, succinct and include pertinent facts, including date and time of service.

4. Consider use of a Clerk’s e-blast to other meeting members to provide timely notification, as well as to begin preparations for the memorial service.


1. Contact family directly. Provide sympathy and support. Review Service Arrangements.  Decide what will be done by meeting and by family.

2. Assist family in making necessary contacts with funeral director, venue, caterer, florist, burial grounds liaisons, etc.  

3. Will they place a Death notice/Obituary in newspaper? (This is provided by the funeral director and handled by the family.) Do they wish to designate a recipient for memorial donations? It often includes the Memorial Service date and time. Make sure they have correct address.

4. If needed, assist the family with, or determine what arrangements are contemplated for burial. Give the family the name and email ( of the Meeting’s Burial Ground Liaison so that they may make arrangements for interment. If cremation is taking place, inform the family of the Anna T. Jeanes Fund which will partially reimburse cremation costs for members of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.

In the event of a NFM burial, the Burial Ground Liaison should be contacted by the family. Ask if the family desires the interment to be a strictly family time, or if they would like the presence of Friends from the Worship & Ministry committee (or others). If the answer to the latter is “yes”, ask if they desire silent worship, or would they like some spoken words of comfort.

The Liaison will cover: burial site, burial and headstone arrangements, interment arrangements, and other details. See also burial ground.


1. Contact family prior to service to ascertain/confirm:

a)  Seating – It is customary for family members to sit in the front row(s) across from the facing benches and for members of Worship and Ministry and Friends designated by the family to sit on the facing benches; otherwise there is no designated seating. How many spaces to reserve?

b)  Flowers for facing benches and/or tables – who takes responsibility for accepting delivery to the meetinghouse?

c)  Refreshments – who orders, prepares and cleans up (the committee offers a simple coffee & cookies reception, but there have been times when the family has arranged a potluck or a catered meal). Tablecloths-there are some in the Care & Counsel closet-if used, need to clean.  Who will serve as hosts? Who will meet the caterer? Who will set up tables and chairs for the reception and for display?

d)  Music and readings, if any. Sometimes, following the wishes of the deceased, quiet music is played prior to the start of the meeting, during or at the end. Songs or readings may also be requested. More frequently family and friends gather in silence.

e)  Guest book, if desired.

f)  Is childcare needed? Contact childcare coordinator 2-3 days before the memorial service with the number, names, and ages of the children.

g)  How many are expected to attend?  This helps with seating, refreshments, parking and other decisions. 

h)  Recording and amplification—does the family want to record the service and use microphones?  Is this available at the location? Who will run it?

i)  Are ushers needed?  Family or Meeting?

j)  Should there be handouts explaining a Quaker memorial service?  Will there be a program provided by family?

k)  Is there a need for parking assistance?  This can be helpful if many guests are expected, latecomers.  Transportation for those who don’t drive?

l) Will the family want display tables or boards?

m)  Clean up- who will clean up and take trash?

n)    Who will lead the service? Worship & Ministry or another Member? Will there be any prepared program elements?

o)    Other special requests

2. Assumes any other helpful role in assisting the family.

3. Assures that ushers are instructed regarding course of a memorial meeting, seating of any navigationally challenged guests, and any family wishes regarding seating. One usher should be responsible for seeing that guests sign the guest book. (Sometimes an announcement to remind attenders to sign, is helpful.) Assist latecomers.

4. Tells the family that the Coordinator or other designated person of the Worship and Ministry Committee begins the memorial meeting with a brief explanation of what a Friends memorial meeting is (see attached suggestions), and concludes the meeting with the traditional handshake.

5. Explains to the family that a memorial meeting typically lasts around 60 minutes, as appropriate to circumstances and to the sense of the meeting. Unexpected closures of meeting can be awkward for all concerned. Designate who will close meeting.

6. Provides any necessary follow-up, or visit after the meeting, regarding memorial contributions, any cards received with flowers, etc.


Prior to the Day of the Service:

1. Arrange for refreshments (if served), including supplies in the kitchen and delivery of food and flowers

2. Arrange for persons to assist with parking

3. Arrange for ushers

4. Arrange for child care (if needed) with Childcare Coordinator- number, ages, special needs

5. Arrange additional parking if needed

6. Make sure there are supplies of tissues, paper goods (if used)

Day of Service:

1. If weather is cold, turn heat up one hour before (Request of B&G)

2. Unlock and open doors (south doors key wrench hanging in east closet)

3. Ready refreshments

4. Place Meeting House Sign (west closet) on corner of State & Court Streets, if many visitors are expected

5. Place “Friends Memorial Service” pamphlets and tissues out on the benches

6. Place flowers in center of facing benches or where family designates

7. Set up extra chairs in balcony, if needed

8. Make sure bathrooms supplied with paper towels and toilet tissue

9. Place guest book for attendees’ signatures on special table, set out boxes of tissue

10. Set up tables for family memorabilia

11. Set up audio-visual (recording, playing, amplifying)

12.Place ushers at south and east doors or as needed

13. Following service, clean-up, put away, heat down (touch “Run-Program”), bring sign back to shed if it was used, lights out, lock doors, remove trash

In Case of Snow or Severely Inclement Weather:

1. Contact family to determine if arrangements need to be postponed

2. Contact Building & Grounds Clerk to confirm snow has been removed

3. Arrive early to remove snow on porches and apply salt as needed


Arrange for a meeting member who is familiar with the deceased (sometimes it is a family member) to write a memorial minute to be read into the minutes of Monthly Meeting for Business. (Saving the Obituary or other articles can be helpful guides.)  May want to include memorial ministry excerpts.

VII. Sample Introduction to Memorial Service

Good afternoon friends. We are gathered here at this time to celebrate the life of ________. We have each known him at some point in her life and we are here today to share those memories, be they serious or funny, shared or singular, to remind ourselves of the many aspects of a long, well-lived life. My name is  _________ . The others on the facing bench are members of the Newtown Meeting Worship and Ministry Committee, responsible for conducting this memorial meeting for worship.

For those of you unfamiliar with Friends’ practices, a few words of explanation may be helpful. A memorial meeting for worship, like our regular worship services, business meeting, committee meetings, weddings and other special gatherings, are based in worship. In worship, we gather together in silence and open ourselves to the presence of God among us, seeking God’s will and guidance.

In a Quaker meeting, all who are present are considered to be ministers, and therefore are welcome to contribute vocal ministry. After a period of gathering silence, anyone who wishes to share a memory of ___ should feel free to do so. We ask that you stand if possible, wait for the microphone, keep your ministry brief, speak loudly and clearly, and allow a suitable period of time after the last speaker has finished before you speak so we may consider what has been shared.

We recognize that there is always an appropriate time for grief and mourning when someone close to us has died. But it is our sense that there should also be a time to share memories to show how we have been changed by having shared that life. I expect that after this meeting, each of you will have a different and more complete picture of ___’s life than you have now, and that we will all feel enriched by his example.

The meeting will be closed by members on the facing bench with a shaking of hands. Please join us after for fellowship in the Gathering Room.

One memory I will always cherish of (personal reflection to set example).

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