Undertaken With Love

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2/15/2009 - FCA volunteer Holly Stevens has completed work on a comprehensive guide to caring for one's own dead, with the help of activists and volunteers from around the country. Here's her press release:

I am pleased to announce that after six months of diligence and hard work by a truly talented nationwide group of home funeral advocates, our manual and study guide to home funeral committees is now published and available!

Undertaken with Love: A Home Funeral Guide for Congregations and Communities is intended for:

* Congregational committees that form to support home funerals for their members

* Pastors and other spiritual leaders contemplating a home funeral ministry

* Secular social groups that form to support home funerals for their members

* The families themselves

Presented in a study guide format for six weekly or monthly self-training sessions, Undertaken With Love describes how to start a home funeral committee; how to research and identify your legal rights, options and responsibilities; how to handle, bathe and transport the body; and how to sustain an effective home funeral committee.

Because we wanted to make this resource affordable to groups that would like to explore family-directed, home-centered funeral practices before making a long-term commitment, we are offering the manual without charge as a PDF download on our website:


Alternatively, it is available for only $15 in a pre-printed, saddle-stitched, full-color version through our shop at Lulu, also accessible through the above website.

In addition to our commitment to making this resource affordable, we are offering a generous copyright license on it. With the exception of the third chapter on laws, the manual carries a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives license that permits the user to make unlimited copies for noncommercial purposes. The third chapter carries a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license that additionally permits the user to alter the content to reflect his or her own state and local laws related to home funerals, again for noncommercial purposes.

We do not pretend that the manual is a comprehensive treatment of home funerals. It points to additional resources for training and information. Our expectation is that as groups begin to explore home funerals as a result of the manual, their appetites will be whetted, and they will seek out these additional resources, which are so valuable.

The manual is indeed a group effort, involving careful deliberations and a commitment to consensus building, despite the challenges that working primarily through cyberspace added. But it's clear to me as project leader that the end product is better than any one of us could have created on our own.

Thanks for our most dedicated participants:

  • Donna Belk of Austin, Texas, a contributing writer on the topics of funeral history, helping the dying and practical care of the body.
  • Wendy Lyons of Lake Orion, Mich., and Margalo Eden of St. Angustine, Fla., our discerning and capable co-editors.
  • Holly Gilbert of Rochester Hills, Mich., our graphic designer, who patiently bore our many last minute tweaks and worked her magic.
  • Gere Fulton of Columbia, S.C. and Joyce Mitchell or Orem, Utah, contributing writers on the subject of home funeral law and how to find your state and local laws.
  • Ann Harr of Circleville, Ohio, and Michael Rulison of Raleigh, N.C., who participated in our discussions and planning at key stages along the way.
  • I served as the project's leader and moderator, and wrote the introduction as well as two chapters on forming and sustaining the home funeral committee.

A word about terminology and definitions: This work of caring for our own dead until burial or cremation goes by many names: home-based death care, family-directed funerals, natural burials. home-centered funerals, etc. After much deliberation and through a process of consensus building, we chose the term "home funeral" to refer to the work and "home funeral committee" to refer to the groups that support the work.

"Home funeral" is not a perfect moniker:  the care might take place in a church or synagogue rather than the home, for instance, and funeral carries a variety of meanings from the procession to the grave, to the committal, to the entire process itself encompassing both burial and cremation. But it is gaining favor in the literature, perhaps because it falls more gently on the ear than its "death care" counterparts. For clarity, we did devise a working definition as we began work on the manual:

A "home funeral" is a noncommercial, family centered response to death that involves the family and its social community in the care and preparation of the body for burial or cremation, and/or in planning and carrying out related rituals or ceremonies, and/or in the burial or cremation itself. A "home funeral" may occur entirely within the family home or not. It is differentiated from the "institutional funeral" by its emphasis on minimal, noninvasive care and preparation of the body, on its reliance on the family's own social networks for assistance and support, and on the relative or total absence of commercial funeral providers in its proceedings.

Now we are looking for a few congregations or community groups such as hospice support groups that would consider piloting Undertaken With Love as a means of organizing a committee to support home funerals among their members. Please email us if you are interested in joining this venture!

We now hope to find a few congregations and other social groups who would be interested in using the manual as a group study guide, to give us feedback on the content and suggestions for our companion website, which will serve as a source for additional information.

We also invite users to leave testimonials about the manual at our regular website:


or at our Lulu  shop's "rate this item" location:


We hope that if you've read this far - wow! - you'll help us by publicizing this manual in your hometown and state. Please email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you would like to volunteer to help with promotion!

Holly Stevens, Project LeaderUndertaken WIth Love: A Home Funeral Guide for Congregations and Communities This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it www.homefuneralmanual.org5918 Pepper RoadOak Ridge, N.C. 27310-9631(336) 643-5947
Last Updated ( Monday, 25 January 2010 21:04 )  
Comments (1)
1 Sunday, 31 January 2010 15:43
Holly Stevens
FCA staff, thanks for updating this alert with our new URL. We also have a new URL for our associated blog: www.undertakenwithlove.blogspot.org and my new related email is hstevens@undertakenwithlove.org

It's presently looking like Minnesota here in N.C. The entire state is nested under a white blanket. Lovely!

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