A new pastor wrote me a letter who heard a letter I had sent to a family at a funeral lately and asked me “how do I (as a pastor) respond in writing to a funeral?” It’s a legitimate question and please allow me to respond based upon my training:
IF IT IS A MEMBER OF YOUR CONGREGATION
Normally, a resolution would be in order. It should contact facts about the deceased, when they united with the congregation and other pertinent information. It should be signed by the Pastor and the Church Clerk. A copy should be given to the family at the service and a copy should be retained in the church records.
IF IT IS A FAMILY MEMBER OF A MEMBER OF A CONGREGATION
It is NEVER APPROPRIATE to send a resolution from the church. Resolutions are canon in church records and if it is a family member of a member, a letter from the Pastor, brief in nature is appropriate. That letter should be concise, encouraging and can be faxed or emailed to the funeral home with a note to “have read at the funeral of Sis. XYZ” – but it is to the pastor’s discretion whether to have it read at the service.
You never, ever make a resolution to another Pastor’s member. Even if its a former member. It is inappropriate.
IF IT IS A CLOSE FRIEND OF THE PASTOR
Again, IT IS NOT APPROPRIATE to send a resolution from the church. The pastor should write a personal letter, understanding that it may be read in the service, and it should be concise, to the point, uplifting and to the point (get the idea). General rule of thumb is that it should not exceeded one page (including letterhead).
General advice – spell check, make sure spree grammar, and be wise in your writing.