An Order of Service for the Consecration of a Burial Ground, Memorial Garden or Columbarium
The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992) contains a wealth of resources for congregations to use in their worship life on a wide variety of occasions. At the time the Book of Worship was published, few of our congregations were building cemeteries on their church property, and what has now become a more widespread practice of providing a memorial garden or columbarium for cremated remains of church members was rarely heard of in our churches.
The following ritual is adapted from the ritual for consecrating burial ground used in the Diocese of Peterborough in the Church of England. Following ancient tradition, the service should ideally be led by the bishop. In our polity, a district superintendent may fulfill this role as well.
Pastors and congregations wishing to consecrate land or structures for burial should contact the bishop's office to ask whether the bishop is available to lead this service or wishes to assign it to a district superintendent.
When all are assembled, the appointed pastor will welcome the people, introduce the bishop or district superintendent who will preside, and invite the presider to begin.
Presider: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Presider: Let us pray.
Most merciful God, we pray for all those whom we love, but see no longer. Grant them peace; let light perpetual shine upon them, and in your loving wisdom and almighty power receive them to yourself, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Presider will then process to each corner of the ground to be consecrated, preceded by the appointed pastor or pastors, the lay leader, and the chair of trustees, and followed by all other members of the congregation. At each corner of the land to be consecrated, the Presider will make the sign of the cross upon the ground (if a bishop, using a crozier). If what is being consecrated is a structure such as a columbarium, the Presider will make the sign of the cross at each of the four corners of the structure. In either case, prior to making the sign of the cross each time, the Presider will say:
Presider: The blessing of the Eternal God be upon this place to sanctify it and keep it holy, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
When the Presider has returned to the place where she or he began the procession, the Presider will say:
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
this memorial is now consecrated
to be a living sign of our mortality
and our sure and certain hope of resurrection
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I heard a voice from heaven saying to me:
Write this: from now one, blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.
They have rest from their labors.
People: Even so, come Lord Jesus.
Presider: Let us go forth in the name of Christ.
People: Thanks be to God!