What Happens at a Funeral for a Jehovah's Witness?
The Jehovah's Witness faith is based on first-century Christianity and bases its beliefs solely on the Bible, rather than the decisions of any religious authorities. The name "Jehovah's Witness" is meant to be descriptive; it indicates that the followers are witnesses for God.
Believers try to focus on God and His calling, rather than on elaborate religious ceremonies or political or worldly events. As a result their rites, including funerals and weddings, tend to be relatively simple and based on Scripture.
Beliefs about Death
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that after death, people enter a state of unconsciousness until they are resurrected in a new body by God. This belief is based on Ecclesiastes 9:5, "For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all." God can resurrect the deceased into an earthly paradise or into heaven, depending on how deserving the person was in life, according to Jehovah's Witnesses.
The funeral for a Jehovah's Witness is typically held a week after death. It is held in a Kingdom Hall, a plain building that is used for services and rites. The funeral is led by an elder and is brief, lasting 15 to 30 minutes. The ceremony itself resembles a regular Sunday service rather than a memorial for the deceased, because Jehovah's Witnesses value modesty and adherence to the Bible rather than the individual. After the short speech by the elder, a song is sung and a closing prayer is offered.
- The funeral for a Jehovah's Witness is typically held a week after death.
- The funeral is led by an elder and is brief, lasting 15 to 30 minutes.
Both men and women at the funeral are expected to dress in dark colours, and women are expected to dress conservatively. Men wear a jacket and tie. Non-believers are welcome, but they are not required to participate. Flowers or gifts for the family are presented before or after the funeral, but the service itself is quite plain. No overt references to the person or demonstrations of love such as placing flowers on the casket are allowed. Tape recorders are allowed, but cameras and video equipment are not permitted.
- Both men and women at the funeral are expected to dress in dark colours, and women are expected to dress conservatively.
- Non-believers are welcome, but they are not required to participate.
After the Funeral
No wake or memorial service is held after the funeral, but visits from family and friends of the deceased are encouraged. Members of the family are not expected to observe any particular period of mourning or to refrain from working. Jehovah's Witnesses do honour and remember those who have passed, but because they focus primarily on God's work on Earth, they try to return to normal lives as quickly as possible after a death.
Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.