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The Columbarium at St. Philip the Deacon

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For centuries, Christian communities have had cemeteries connected to their church locations. These burial grounds have created beautiful spaces to remember loved ones, have simplified the logistics of burials, and have allowed congregations to honor the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before them.

For congregations in cities and suburbs, these kinds of traditional cemeteries haven’t been possible due to space limitations, but Columbaria—walls with niches designed to receive and store cremation urns—have become a popular alternative. Like traditional burial grounds, these structures allow families and friends to remember and honor loved ones in a setting that is directly connected to the life of the congregation.

In response to a strong interest among the members of St. Philip the Deacon, a Columbarium wall was built on the north side of the church, just off of our Chapel entrance.

“Blessed in the sight of the LORD is the homecoming of his faithful ones.” - Psalm 116:15

The Columbarium currently includes 200 niches, each of which can be used to hold either one or two cremation urns.

Each of the 8 x 8 inch niches has a Cambrian black granite exterior door, which will be engraved with the name and birth and death dates of the individual or individuals inurned there. A matching granite forms a capstone on the wall, and on the north side, the wall is surrounded by brick to match the exterior of the church.

A foundation for a second wall—which could hold an additional 200 niches—was poured at the same time as the first Columbarium wall, allowing us to double the total capacity of the Columbarium in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a columbarium?
A columbarium is vault or wall that serves as a final resting place for your ashes (cremains) or those of a loved one.

2. Is cremation an acceptable practice of the Lutheran Church?
Yes, cremation is in harmony with the church’s oft repeated reminder that “from dust you came and to dust you shall return.”

3. Must I make arrangements with a particular cremation society?
No. Arrangements may be made with any funeral home or cremation society. However, we strongly encourage you to make use of a funeral home and the services they provide for the memorial service.

4. Why should I choose the columbarium at SPDLC?
For centuries, Christians have honored their loved ones with dignified final resting places in the churchyards on their grounds. In this tradition, SPDLC provides a location connected to the community of the church where one can peacefully meditate upon the lives of those who have died.

5. Where is the columbarium located?
The columbarium is located on the north side of the building, connected to the exterior west wall of the Sanctuary, and outside of the Chapel entrance.

6. How big is a niche?
Each niche is 8 x 8 inches, large enough to accommodate two 5.5” x 5.5” x 7” urns.

7. Who can purchase a niche?
Niches may be purchased for past and present members of SPDLC and their immediate family. Non-members of the faith community may also apply to purchase a niche at the discretion of the church.

8. How do I purchase a niche?
After you have carefully read the Policies and Procedures, you may submit an application along with payment. You will receive a Niche Permit that shows evidence of payment and the location of your niche(s) to keep for your records.

9. Do I own the niche after purchase?
No, the Niche Permit is a license to use the niche. No real property right or interest is created.

10. How many niches can I buy?
You may buy as many as needed. For example, families may opt to purchase a group of adjacent niches, with two urns per niche.

11. Can I specify which niche?
Yes, you will have your choice of niche based on which niches are available at the time of your application.

12. How much does a niche cost?
Each niche can accommodate two urns. The cost for a niche with two urns is $3,750. Individuals who have need of a single urn may purchase a niche for the cost of $2,750. These prices may increase in the future.

13. How does the cost of inurnment compare with the cost of being buried in a traditional cemetery?
While funeral and burial expenses vary widely based on a number of factors, the cost of a niche for two urns—along with two urns and two engravings—will typically be significantly less expensive that the cost of two gravesite burials, including two openings, two burial vaults and caskets, and two markers.

14. What does the cost of a niche cover?
The cost includes the niche itself, the choice of niche location, maintenance of the inurnment site, and the cost of maintaining records of use and administration of the columbarium.

15. Are there other costs associated with the purchase of a niche?
At the time of death, families will pay for the urn for the cremains and the inscription to be engraved on the niche. The cost of cremation is not included nor are the costs for a memorial service.

16. Who will do the inurnment?
A Pastor of SPDLC will preside over the inurnment.

17. Can ashes be scattered at SPDLC?

18. May I change the name/s of those to be inurned in my niche in the columbarium?
Yes, you may change the list of designated persons by a written amendment to the Niche Permit signed by the church representative and yourself.

19. May I sell the niche to another person?
Yes, with prior permission from SPDLC.

20. What if I change my mind/move away/divorce/get married?
If there has been no inurnment and you decide that the niche is no longer needed, the church may, at its discretion, repurchase the niche. If so, the church will pay 80 percent of the sum paid at the time of purchase. The remaining 20 percent of the original payment shall be retained by the church for its administrative cost. The church will not pay accrued interest.

21. May I remove ashes from the columbarium?
Yes. In the event there has been an inurnment in a niche and the personal representative or immediate family of the person whose cremains have been inurned wish to permanently remove the cremains from the niche, they may do so. However, there will not be any reimbursement in this case.

22. Will SPDLC pledge to tend the columbarium in perpetuity?
As long as SPDLC exists, it will exercise its best effort to care for and maintain the columbarium and the niches.

23. What type of flowers, plants or decorations may I place at the niche?
In order to preserve the beauty, unity, and sanctity of the space, no decorations are permitted and any decorations placed at any time will be removed and disposed of by the church.

24. Can I inter the remains of a pet?
A pet’s ashes may be mixed with human cremains. However, the church does not allow a separate inscription for the pet.

25. May other items be inurned with the cremains?
No valuables shall be placed in the urn or niche.

26. What personal information appears on the inscription?
The name, the birth and death dates.

27. When can the columbarium be visited?
The columbarium is located outside and may be visited at any time.

Application: The document to request to reserve a niche in the columbarium
Columbarium: A room, structure or building with niches for urn storage
Cremains: The ashes of a cremated human body
Interment: The burial of a human corpse in a grave or tomb typically with funeral liturgy
Inurnment: The placement of cremains in a columbarium typically with memorial liturgy
Niche: A place for the storage of an urn containing cremains
Niche Permit: The signed document showing payment received and niche/s reserved in the columbarium

Want to learn more?


Pastor Tim Westermeyer
Senior Pastor
St. Philip the Deacon
17205 County Road Six
Plymouth, MN 55447



“Faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing. And so it is impossible for it not to do good works incessantly . . . it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate burning and shining from fire.”

Martin Luther