Seventh Day Adventists' funeral customs are somewhat similar to other Protestant denominations. However, there are a few differences that you should be aware of so that you can avoid a social misstep. It is helpful to have a basic understanding of Seventh Day Adventists' views of death and the afterlife before attending one of their funeral services.
Beliefs about Death and the Afterlife
Seventh Day Adventists believe that all who die enter an unconscious state, sometimes referred to as soul sleep, and that the deceased will remain in that state until the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. They believe that when Jesus appears, all of the righteous will be gathered to Him, including those who are in the unconscious state and those who are alive at the time of the Resurrection. According to Adventist teaching, God then will provide an eternal home for those who have been redeemed.
Most Common Funeral Customs
Seventh Day Adventist funeral customs generally reflect those of other Protestant churches. The funeral service usually includes sacred music, prayer, a reading of the obituary, a reading from Scripture, a short sermon and a benediction. Following the benediction, the minister will lead the casket to the hearse and from there to the grave site. Seventh Day Adventists often have a brief graveside service that includes sprinkling flower petals over the casket. Non-Adventists may notice during the funeral that the deceased is referred to as being "asleep," which reflects the Adventists' belief of the unconscious state.
Alternate Funeral Customs
While a traditional Christian burial service is typical for Seventh Day Adventists, the church recognizes a variety of other burial customs. As long as the customs don't oppose Seventh Day Adventist teachings, these customs can reflect the family's preferences or local customs. Seventh Day Adventists may be cremated. They also may have more elaborate or simpler funeral services, depending on the family and local church's preferences.
If attending a Seventh Day Adventist's funeral, visit with the family of the deceased and offer condolences during their time of bereavement. If the family chooses to have a viewing, friends and family are usually welcome. Visiting the family after the funeral is encouraged, as is sending traditional gifts of flowers or food to their home. Dress conservatively for Seventh Day Adventist funerals. Women should wear clothing that covers the arms and knees, and all guests ideally should wear dark clothing and remove jewelry.
Don't speak of the deceased being in heaven. Seventh Day Adventists believe that the redeemed will live eternally, but they don't believe that those who die go immediately to heaven. Friends and family do not generally make charitable donations in honor of a deceased Adventist. If your beliefs differ from those of Seventh Day Adventists, don't bring them up during the day of the funeral. There are more appropriate times to discuss differences between denominations.
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