In this episode, Chris Rivers, Scott Mozingo, and Matt Kelley discuss death, the natural burial process, and the opportunity to care for and disciple members through this unique season. Matt shares how a conversation with his dad, along with several other contributing factors, spurred discussions about natural burial and what it might look like for Grace Church. Born out of the idea that the Church should take care of its people, not only in life but also in death, natural burial is a practical way to live out this principle. Over the course of time, many parts of the death and after-death process have been outsourced. The church, who rallies towards people when they experience every other kind of grief, was taking more of a hands-off approach to the issue of death. Natural burial creates a communal experience, allowing church members to play an active role in the process and tangibly care for people in their grief.
What is natural burial and how does it work in Grace’s context?
- In 2021, Grace purchased a 12-acre piece of land in Piedmont, SC (previously a tree farm) to use as a natural burial site.
- The process for natural burial involves no embalming, no vault, and no casket. It is a simple process in which bodies are placed in a pine box or shroud and lowered into the ground.
- Burial sites are marked with a small stone and the person’s birth date and death date—there are not specific plots, but the areas where people are buried are mapped out by computer software.
- After someone passes away, the body is kept by Palmetto Mortuary (Grace partner) and then transported to the site. Grace volunteers dig the site and prepare the area for burial.
- When the family arrives, the pine box is laying on boards over the hole. The family lowers the body into the ground and actively participates in the burial.
What are the benefits to this type of burial?
- Environmental benefits—keeps chemicals and non-decomposing materials out of the ground
- Reduced cost for families—frees them up to use these resources to do ministry or deploy them in a way that honors God
- Allows the church do what it is called to do—care personally for people in death and meet those who are mourning in their grief
- Allows family and friends to play an active role in the burial of their loved one
Why is it important for our church?
- It serves as a reminder that the world is not our home and death is not something to be feared. It is an outward expression of the hope we have.
- It is an opportunity to take back and reclaim something the church is responsible for in caring for our body.
- In a dark time, the church is able to be there and care for the needs of those they are in community with or serve alongside.
- It allows members to serve in various capacities—digging holes, clearing land, building pine boxes, and many other logistical tasks.
- It is another way to disciple people and ensure we are discipling from birth to death.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
- What did you learn about the natural burial process after listening to this episode?
- After hearing Matt discuss the benefits of this type of burial and why it is important for our church, what stood out to you the most? How do you personally think this could be a vehicle for discipleship in our church?
- In your experience, how has the church reached out to you and your loved ones during times of loss?
For people and animals share the same fate - both breathe and both must die. So people have no real advantage over the animals. How meaningless! Both go to the same place - they came from dust and the return to dust. Ecclesiastes 3:19-20
For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Hebrews 13:14
For more information about natural burial, contact Jennifer Dill at [email protected] or visit:
Theology of Death Sermon Series
If you have questions about this episode or you have an idea for a future episode, please visit the podcast page and click on "ask Chris and Scott."