An Essential Asset for Funeral Homes: The Professional Interfaith Bereavement Chaplain

New Article

Unity SymboldThe professional interfaith bereavement chaplain: an essential asset to the mortuary services provider and to the consumer

A straight – from – the – hip discussion of the state of affairs, solutions and recommendations by an experienced provider of professional interfaith bereavement services.

Abstract. This article presents an uncosmetized impression of the deterioration in quality of death services, and based on firsthand observations makes practical recommendations for improving the services provided to and requested by the bereaved and supportive of mourners. This article makes recommendations to the consumer as well as to the mortuary services provider, that include among other things: sensitivity to the spiritual needs of the mourner, addressing those needs with appropriate sensitivity, providing for those needs through the services of a competent professional bereavement chaplain. This article highlights not only the human-spirit aspects of dignified and personalized funeral and memorial services but also points out the considerable economies to be realized by both the consumer and the service provider by enlisting the support of an on – call professional interfaith bereavement chaplain. With the holistic interdisciplinary team approach advocated in this article, the insidious deterioration in care and support services can be deterred if not prevented by the mortuary services provider partnered with the on – call professional interfaith bereavement chaplain, and the necessary grief work, healing and transformation effectively nurtured.

While this article focuses in specific terms on providers and consumers of mortuary services, its principles and applications, and recommendations can be extended and generalized to any of the helping professions.

While this article attempts to address a number of points, which are high in priority to both the consumer and service provider, many points must necessarily remain unmentioned. With that in mind, we do encourage feedback and comment from our readers, and we invite you to provide your thoughts either by private e – mail to or by using the comment feature on this blog.

Keywords: Funeral, memorial, mortuary services, funeral director, funeral home, grief, mourning, chaplain, pastoral care, spiritual care, officiant, helping profession

“Death is psychologically as important as birth. Shrinking away from it is both unhealthy and abnormal … because it robs the second half of life of its meaning and purpose.”
Ernest Becker

Here are some of the subtitles in the article:

  • The Funeral Director And The Funeral Home Staff Are In A Helping Profession: It’s Time You Realized That.
  • The Funeral Director And His Or Her Staff Has Mutated To That Of Disposal Specialist
  • We No Longer Have The Appreciation Of The Intimacy With Life’s Stages Such As The Closeness And Appreciation Of Death That The Victorians Shared
  • Churches And Clergy Are Not Much Better And Fall Far Short Of The Barest Minimum Of Ministry To The Bereaved
  • Sensitively Executed Memorial Or Funeral Service Should Be Even More Important Because Each And Every Mourner Carries Home The Healthy Effects When They Leave The Funeral Home Or Graveside
  • Spiritual Religious Concerns Are High On The List Of Priorities Of The Bereaved
  • Regret The Poor Performance Of Clergy And Their Impersonal And Rushed Approach To The Spiritual Needs Of The Bereaved
  • Spiritual Care Must Be A Part Of The Physical Care; It’s More Durable… It Lasts Lifetimes
  • In Mortuary Practice No One Gives Much Thought To The Living, The Survivors, Life To Be Lived
  • A True Professional Knows The Trade, Anticipates The Client’s Needs, Recognizes Knows His Or Her Personal And Professional Boundaries
  • Most People Are Guilty Of The Arch-Sin Of Fear Or Ignorance, Each Of Which Is A Form Of Laziness
  • Costs Can Be Minimized If The Funeral Home Has An On-Call Officiant / Chaplain
  • The On-Call Or P.R.N. Officiant / Chaplain Forms A Therapeutic And Pastoral Alliance With The Family
  • The Functionary-Spectator Model Is Not Only Antiquated And Obsolete, It’s Downright Unhealthy
  • The Family Is Assured Of A Service Tailored To The Family’s Culture, Beliefs, Practices, Composition, And Specific expectations
  • More Often Than Not The Family Will Work Hard To Provide Any Support They Can
  • They Appreciate The Fact That Someone Knows That They Still Hurt
  • The Chaplain, In Virtue Of His Or Her Education, Training, Experience, Vocation Has A Certain Authority
  • The Lines Between Faiths And Belief Systems Are Quite Blurred At Times
  • The Professional Bereavement Chaplain Will Know How To Incorporate The Bizarre With The Traditional
  • It’s A Vocation, Not A Job.


The professional interfaith bereavement chaplain is an important but frequently overlooked professional support person available to the funeral home as well as to mourners. As a professional member of the funeral home team the on-call or p.r.n. chaplain assumes the responsibility for the funeral and memorial service design, organization, coordination, execution, and follow-up, freeing the funeral home staff to concern itself with other important matters. As a highly trained, empathetic, authentic, facilitator and support person, the professional interfaith chaplain provides essential and necessary support to the bereaved and mourners, and forms a de facto therapeutic alliance with them, facilitating the grief work necessary to the healing and transformation process.

The on-call or p.r.n. chaplain virtually eliminates personnel, equipment and logistics overheads

On the more mundane side, the professional interfaith bereavement chaplain represents a cost-saving model for both the mortuary services provider and for the consumer of mortuary services. The on-call or p.r.n. chaplain virtually eliminates personnel, equipment and logistics overheads by being available for effective liturgical, spiritual, religious or humanistic services on site at the funeral home or mortuary services facility, practically eliminating the need for organizing and coordinating resources for complicated and costly movements of staff, equipment, remains, and mourners. The funeral liturgical service, the memorial service or other rites are done right at the funeral home. The chaplain processes then with the cortège directly to the cemetery or crematorium for the graveside, cremation, or columbarium rites.

The Funeral Home Staff Should Bear In Mind The Importance Of Spiritual And Religious Or Pastoral Care Support

In the context of the 21st century death and bereavement culture, the professional interfaith chaplain plays an enormously important role both to the funeral home or mortuary services provider and to the bereaved and mourners. Wherever possible, the funeral home staff should bear in mind the importance of spiritual and religious or pastoral care support to the bereaved and should impress the importance of such support to families when making funeral arrangements. Even if the bereaved do not list a religious or faith preference, even if they do not belong to or actively participate with a faith or belief community, they may have a significant religious commitment without even realizing it, and will benefit from the meaning-making and closure effects of a well-designed funeral or memorial service. It would be a disservice if funeral home staff and mortuary service providers were to ignore this important element of mortuary services.



  • Discuss The Benefits Of A Spiritual, Religious Or Humanistic Funeral Or Memorial Service With The Bereaved
  • The Interfaith Bereavement Chaplain Will Be Compassionately Present For You
  • The Interfaith Chaplain Be Non – Judgmental And Tolerant Of The Family’s Unique Systems

Empirical observation supports the medical, psychiatric, psychological, pastoral care literature and the growing consensus that spiritual care, whether religious or non – religious, plays a significant role in the health and well-being of all sufferers, including the bereaved. Spiritual care supports the mourner in myriad ways both in the acute grief period into the grief work and mourning stages and well beyond. Spiritual care as offered by the professional interfaith bereavement chaplain represents a significant added value to the funeral home’s product offerings and further represents substantial tangible and intangible benefits to the insightful funeral services manager and his or her establishment.


Corresponding author:
Chaplain Harold W. Vadney BA, [MA], MDiv
Interfaith Bereavement Chaplain
P.O. 422
New Baltimore, New York 12124 – 0422

Click here to view or to download the entire article: Interfaith Bereavement Chaplain-An Essential Asset.


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