Lois McCredie knows firsthand how difficult it is to plan a funeral without previous arrangements.

“When my husband George died in 1981 at age 56, he had no funeral plans,” McCredie, 95, says. She never discussed end-of-life plans with her husband, who served as pastor of Wrightsville Presbyterian Church since 1972.

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McCredie still attends Wrightsville Presbyterian. As a woman of deep faith, she’s thought for years that the church would be a good place to help people plan their services. And, starting May 21, it will.

Wrightsville Presbyterian Church will offer its first Interfaith End-of-Life Workshop from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, May 21, at 205 N. Second Street in the Fellowship Hall. The workshop is expected to be the first in a series.

“Thinking ahead about an end-of-life ritual is a gift for oneself and their loved ones,” says the church’s pastor, the Rev. Jesse North. But, North notes, it’s a subject not often discussed in American culture.

Everyone is invited to attend the workshop regardless of faith or spiritual perspective, including those who claim no faith. Attendees can ask questions and receive information about resources on how to plan a service for themselves or their loved ones.

Avoid being overwhelmed

McCredie and North began discussing the concept of hosting a workshop after a dedicated church member died last October. The individual left no funeral plans.

To get plans for the workshop started, North reached out to other pastors in Wrightsville to co-sponsor it. Those participating are the Rev. Jerry Schmidt, pastor of Wrightsville Hope United Methodist Church, and Vicar John Sheaf, of Trinity Lutheran Church in Wrightsville.

Others participants include the Rev. Sarah Hurley, an end-of-life doula, interfaith minister and founder and president of Lititz charity Compassion Point; Shannon Etzweiler, of Robert M. Etzweiler Funeral Home in Wrightsville; and Sarah Barrett and Alicia Ferrari of community organization Wrightsville for All.

While serving as a chaplain intern, North witnessed what he calls “eye-opening experiences” with end-of-life situations in hospitals for patients and their loved ones.

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When he learned Hurley, his colleague and friend, was certified as an end-of-life doula, he asked her to take part in the workshop.

“For many people, making end-of-life decisions is a hard topic which makes them feel overwhelmed,” Hurley says.

She was thrilled to take part in the workshop and share her expertise as an end-of-life doula. Hurley believes it’s better for people to be “proactive than reactive” when it comes to funeral preparations.

Presentation plans

North, McCredie and Hurley will give presentations about planning a service. Questions for thought will include: Do you want a traditional funeral, memorial service or party gathering? Who will take charge or participate, and are they aware of it? Will it include music? Which scripture, poem or other reading would you want included in the service?

Hurley will suggest ways to creatively think outside the box about how to plan a meaningful service. North will suggest specific ways to begin the conversation with loved ones.

McCredie will also share answers to questions she dealt with when her husband died.

“Today, people also need to think about the service location,” McCredie says. “It could be in a church, funeral home, graveside, relative’s house, fire hall or restaurant.”

A panel discussion with Schmidt, Sheaf, Etzweiler and the presenters will follow. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and contemplate seed questions from the panel. Sample documents about various funeral customs will be available for small groups to discuss with a member of the panel.

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Refreshments will be served.

Organizers will share a preview of the next Interfaith End-Of-Life Workshop, anticipated to take place in the fall. However, North says, if there’s a request for a summer workshop, they’ll make it happen.

“Our goal for this workshop is for every person to leave with a draft of their own service and/or with questions and thoughts to discuss with their loved ones,” North says.

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