1) For Ancestors who were non-Christians
Distinction should be made between practices which are cultural in nature and those which are religious in nature:-
(a) Common cultural practices which a Christian may engage in:-
(1) visit gravesite / niche together with family members to honour ancestor and to promote family bond and harmony,
(2) repair tombstone, clean up its surroundings / clean the niche,
(3) place flowers at tombstone / niche,
(4) respectfully bow in front of the tomb / niche, for a moment of silence in remembrance, honour and gratitude to the ancestor, and
(5) eat food which is not used as food offering to the ancestor. While it is not sinful to eat food which has been used as offering to the ancestor, eating such food may give a wrong impression to the non-Christian family members that the Christian supports / encourages ancestor worship.
(b) Common religious rites which a Christian must not engage in:-
(1) any rite meant to worship ancestral spirit,
(2) pray to ancestor spirit (with or without holding joss stick, either standing or kneeling, bowing or not bowing),
(3) burn hell money, paper replicas of personal effects for the ancestor’s use in the nether world, and
(4) give food offering to ancestral spirit.
(2) For ancestors who were Christians
Some ideas for Memorial Service for a Christian ancestor:-
(a) family, including non-Christian members, visit tomb site / niche,
(b) clean up and repair tomb stone and clean up its surrounding / clean up niche,
(c) use flowers to decorate the tomb site / niche,
(d) light one candle at the tomb / niche,
(e) Opening Prayer.
— Thank and praise the Lord for giving salvation to the ancestor and other Christian family members (names),
— for comforting the family in times of grief for the ancestor,
— for His blessings for the whole family and
— for holding the family united in love, peace and harmony.
— May the Lord also save the rest of the living non-Christian family members (names) into His holy kingdom,
(f) respectfully bow in front of the tomb / niche, for a moment of silence in remembrance, honour and gratitude to the ancestor,
(g) sing memorial songs such as:-
- God be with you till we meet again.
- Sleeping in the Lord’s arms.
- It is well with my soul.
- Amazing grace.
- How great thou art.
- The Lord is my shepherd.
- What a friend we have in Jesus.
- Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
- To God be the glory.
- Old rugged cross.
(h) each person shares a thought about the ancestor,
(i) recite deeds and virtues of the ancestor,
(j) preach homilies based on the words of wisdom of the ancestor,
(k) Closing prayer in praise and thanks to the Lord,
(l) share meal among family members and talk about the ancestor, and
(m) look through photos of the ancestor.
Brother Richard Chng