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COVID-19 Update

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Memorial Church, the Center for Inter-Religious Community, Learning and Experiences (CIRCLE), and Windhover Contemplative Center are all currently closed. Students who wish to apply for a religious event exemption, click HERE for more information.

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Memorial Service FAQs

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When and how soon after my loved one dies can we arrange a memorial service?

To allow for thorough planning, memorial services usually take place more than three weeks following a death, and in some cases, several months later. 

Memorial services are usually held in the afternoon on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Because Memorial Church hosts a variety of worship, weddings, musical and University events, we are unable to hold memorial services on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

What is the difference between a funeral and a memorial service?  Can a funeral be held in Memorial Church?

Typically, a funeral occurs soon after the death, with the casket and the body present. In keeping with the wishes of Jane Stanford, we are unable to have caskets or urns inside Memorial Church. Consequently, we are unable to hold funerals in Stanford Memorial Church.

At a memorial service, family, friends, colleagues and the community honor the person who died. It usually takes place several weeks or months after the death, with tributes from a range of people who reflect on the life and legacy of the loved one.

My loved one was religiously observant. Will that be reflected in the choice of clergy?  Can my own spiritual/religious leader officiate? Can secular (non-religious) memorial services happen in Memorial Church?

Stanford Memorial Church is not a conventional Christian church. We serve all faiths and none, with our diverse staff. Currently, our clergy are from Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions. We have also held many secular memorial services in the church.

The Senior Associate Dean, one of the Associate Deans, or one of our chaplain affiliates will always officiate at memorial services held in Stanford Memorial Church. They will assist in planning the service according to the wishes of the family, friends, colleagues, whether they are religious or secular.

Upon request of the family or department and with advance notice, the Stanford officiant will invite outside clergy connected to your loved one to take part in the memorial service.

What does a typical memorial service look like?

Memorial services are designed with the family or department and tailored to the sensibilities and wishes of the family in consultation with Stanford’s officiating clergy. A customary service might include a musical prelude, a welcome, scripture readings, poetry or other excerpts from literature, tributes from friends, family and colleagues, special music, hymns, a benediction and a musical postlude. Services generally last about one hour. 

Most families and departments choose to have a printed bulletin or service program. In the meeting with the presiding clergy, samples from past memorial services can be provided to assist the family or department in creating the printed bulletins or service programs. Please have the presiding clergy look it over prior to printing. 

The Office for Religious Life is able to create an audio recording of the memorial for the family or department as a memory of the event.

Each memorial service is unique. Specific logistical details will be addressed at your in-person meeting with the operations staff member who will oversee the service.

Who should I be in touch with about music?

All questions regarding music for the service should be addressed in advance to the University Organist, Robert Huw Morgan, at (650) 725-0530 or email. Classical-style music, or music from an established religious tradition, is most often played at memorial services in Memorial Church.

Where on campus can I have a reception?

If you want an on-campus reception, the family or department is responsible for making those arrangements. Unfortunately, Stanford Memorial Church does not have reception space and cannot assist in the planning of receptions. We encourage the use of departmental space, when possible and appropriate.

What are the fees to have a memorial at Stanford Memorial Church?

  • Church Use: $1200 via credit card link
  • Organist honorarium: $300 via check (payable directly to the organist OR Stanford University as directed by the memorial service coordinator)
  • Clergy honorarium: $300 via check (payable directly to clergy)
  • Other fees may apply if special arrangements need to be made including, but not limited to reserved parking, shuttles, or special equipment.
  • There are no fees for Stanford students or current congregants.
  • Families and/or departments may arrange with a local florist for flowers to be delivered for the service.

For any questions or inquiries, please call the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life at 650.723.1762.