Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian sect with beliefs based on Christian Bible. They are known for proselytizing (inviting people to convert religiously) and prophesying the end of the world. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is the church’s governing body. While their scriptures are based on Christianity, the followers strictly believe that God is not a deity but a person.
There are other differences between this sect and other Christian sects as well. These include not celebrating pagan holidays, voting, gambling, or smoking cigarettes. Considering the many differences between this sect and the others, one may wonder what are the funeral customs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In this article we’ll be covering a detailed account of Jehovah’s Witnesses funeral customs and traditions.
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs on death and afterlife differ from mainstream Christianity in two ways. First, they believe in the death of the soul and the body. Simply put, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, the soul ceases to exist until the end of the world. Since the soul does not live on and their beliefs do not put emphasis on the body, the followers are encouraged to cut ties with the deceased. Second, they do not believe in Hell. The sect does not believe that God would subject His creation to suffering. Therefore, they do not fear death, instead it is considered a state of nothingness. Since mourning is uncommon, funeral customs such as wakes and sacrifices are usually avoided.
The following are some of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ funeral rituals and customs:
Body Preparation — No special rituals are performed on the deceased’s body in advance. However, the body is embalmed in case of an open casket funeral or a delay.
Body Disposition — After a funeral service, the body is transported to either the cemetery for burial or crematorium for cremation. Both rituals are acceptable in the religion.
Burial Ceremony — A short ceremony, including a brief reading of prayers and scriptures, occurs at the graveside before the body is lowered.
Belief On Cremation — Since Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in the need of bodies for resurrection, cremation is permissible.
Deceased’s Dress Code — There is no specific ruling about this. Generally, the attire is semi-formal. The clothing is made of the family’s choice.
Viewing the Deceased — Viewing the deceased in the funeral home scheduled during conventional times is accepted in Jehovah’s Witnesses funerals.
Jehovah’s Witnesses funerals usually take place at a funeral home or the Kingdom Hall. They are open to the public which reflects the proselytizing nature of the sect. People attending the funeral who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses are often referred to as “Non-witnesses”. The atmosphere is modest with limited mourning. Almost all attendees wear dark semi formal attire much like mainstream Christian funerals. The funeral may or may not be open-casket. There is no reception but it is acceptable to take food or flowers for the deceased’s family.
If you’re attending a Jehovah’s Witness funeral as a Non-Witness, it is best to keep the following funeral etiquettes in mind.
Funeral Attire — Attendees wear dark semi-formal clothing. Men usually wear a suit while women usually wear a conservative dress.
Funeral Tone — Funeral practices are kept reserved and modest with no display of economic status of the deceased. Mourning is expected to not be overly somber as in the religion, death is not a negative event.
Funeral Duration — A typical Jehovah’s witnesses’ funeral is quick and lasts about 30-45 minutes.
Funeral Gifts — Gifts to the family are expected to be simple.
Funeral Recordings — Recording or the use of cell phones is usually prohibited at the funeral. Always check with the elder before doing either.
Funeral Condolences — A good approach is to say sorry for the person’s loss, acknowledge their sorrow and share happy memories of the deceased. Refrain from using overly pagan statements like “your loved one is in Heaven now”.
Certain aspects of a Jehovah’s Witness funeral are unique to the sect. They are as follows:
Last but not least, usually at the end, a song chosen by the deceased’s family from the Jehovah’s Witness songbook is sung and all attendees are invited to take part.
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ funerals are unique in various aspects. Their tone is modest and reserved, reflecting their beliefs of ceasing the soul after death and the hope of a future heaven on earth. Moreover, Jehovah’s Witness funerals are open to the public. As a Non-Witness attendee, one should be aware of the funeral customs and etiquettes, in order to show respect and rightfully honor the deceased and his or her family.