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Faith and Practice

Pacific Yearly Meeting

of the

Religious Society of Friends

a guide to quaker discipline in the experience of pacific yearly meeting of the religious society of friends.
published 2001

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Death in the Meeting

pym in context
quaker faith & spiritual practice
testimony & experience of friends
organization of the society
activities & organization of the YM
sources of quotations
index of sources
subject index

We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Friends who have permitted us to use material for this Faith and Practice.


memorial meetings for worship

They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill what never dies. Nor can spirits ever be divided that love and live in the same Divine Principle, the root and record of their friendship. If absence be not death, neither is theirs.

william penn, 1693

Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives, warming us with intimations of an astounding destiny, calling us home unto Itself.

thomas a. kelly, a testament of devotion, 1941

 When Friends suffer the loss of a loved one there is sustaining strength in the loving concern and helpfulness of the Meeting and its members. Friends are urged to make their needs known, and the Oversight Committee should give whatever specific help may be necessary when death comes. The committee asks Friends to visit and counsel with the family or friends of the deceased and to offer assistance such as notifying relatives and friends, and helping to plan a Memorial Meeting.

 Friends’ testimony on simplicity, and consideration for the wishes of the family, should govern the arrangements. Friends generally feel that a Memorial Meeting should occur following prompt and simple disposition of the body. The Oversight Committee oversees the arrangements for the Memorial Meeting. Meetings may hold Memorial Meetings for non-members. Memorials “in the manner of Friends” may also be held in the Meetinghouse, when the Meeting discerns what type of spiritual and logistical support it can offer.

 For Friends, a Memorial Meeting for Worship on the occasion of death is a time to celebrate in the Light the life of an individual whose spirit has been released to God. It is a time to draw the living into the upholding comfort and loving care of the Divine Presence.

 A Friend may be asked to talk briefly about the manner of the Meeting. (Some Meetings provide a written explanation of Friends Memorial Meetings.) A statement about the person may be prepared ahead of time and read if that is consistent with the spirit of the Meeting and the desires of the family.†

 A simple reception may follow the Memorial Meeting. Such an occasion gives an opportunity to express grief, love and thanksgiving. For many, it is a helpful reentry into everyday life. Care of the ashes or burial is often handled at a separate time from the Memorial Meeting and is usually a family matter.†† This can be a particularly poignant moment, and the Meeting needs to be sensitive to the needs of the family for privacy or for spiritual support.

 The Oversight Committee oversees the preparation of a Memorial Minute, which emphasizes the deceased’s life as a Friend, so that his or her journey may be a teacher to the Monthly Meeting and to the Yearly Meeting. The Oversight Committee should present the Memorial Minute to the Monthly Meeting for Business for inclusion in the Meeting minutes, and forward it to the Yearly Meeting Ministry and Oversight Committee. A copy of the Minute should be included in the membership records of the deceased and it may also be sent to Friends’ publications.


† If the Memorial Minute is ready, it may be read at the Memorial Meeting. However, the status of the minute should not hold up the Memorial Meeting, which should be timed for the family’s convenience.

†† As of January 1, 1999, it is legal in California to scatter or bury ashes on private property including that owned by Meetings.