Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Funeral Customs and Traditions

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Funeral Customs and Traditions

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

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. 

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Funeral Rituals & Customs

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.

What Can You Expect When Attending a Jehovah’s Witnesses Funeral?

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. 

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Funeral Etiquette

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”. 

Unique aspects of a Jehovah’s Witnesses funeral

Certain aspects of a Jehovah’s Witness funeral are unique to the sect. They are as follows: 

  • Services usually happen at the local Kingdom Hall. 
  • Funerals are usually held on Sundays. 
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses funerals last between 30 to 45 minutes only. 
  • Attendees may be given a souvenir; a small card containing photos, song lyrics and a few words about the deceased. 
  • There is only one speaker for the service who is an elder man in the congregation. The speaker briefly speaks about the deceased’s life and the faith they had. They end the speech by making a few prayers and reading the bible. Selected reading usually highlights hope and promise of a future heaven on earth.
  • No eulogies are made for the deceased by the loved ones. 

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.

Conclusion

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.

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