What is a Columbaria?

Columbaria is the plural for Columbarium, derived from the Latin word columba (dove), the symbol of God’s Spirit and the Christian symbol of peace. It means, literally, “alcove of the dove”. A Columbarium is a vault with niches for urns containing cremated remains, or cremains.

What is the view of the United Methodist Church on cremation?

The process of cremation is not in conflict with the beliefs or doctrines of the Church and is supported when it is the choice of the deceased or family.

Where is the columbaria installed?

The two columbaria are located in Nichols Chapel, facing each other from the east and west walls of the chancel. They are 10′ 3″ tall and about 6 feet wide, made of solid walnut, and matching the other wood currently in the chapel. Though the columbaria are darker-colored, walnut lightens over the years. The other wood in Nichols Chapel is 50 years older than our brand-new columbaria.

Each columbarium has 112 niches, for a total of 224. Each niche is slightly under 8 inches wide by 8 inches tall and 12 inches deep. This can accommodate two urns which, in this case, are standardized, tamper-proof metal canisters of cremains. Secured by a special inter-locking system, each niche has an engraved bronze faceplate, which makes the specific niche easily identifiable.

Why is having a Columbaria a good thing?

The church has traditionally been the final resting place of the deceased members of the Christian community. It is considered a blessing for a Christian to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Most of the great cathedrals of the world have burial spaces, and such burial was once reserved for noteworthy church leaders, nobility, and citizens. Many small, rural churches are surrounded by graveyards and headstones. Today, as cremation is used more frequently, columbaria are more and more present in churches.

What benefits are there for CUMC/WF and its members?

A niche in a columbarium is modest in cost, liturgically satisfying, and ecologically sound. The quiet setting of Nichols Chapel invites solitary prayer and contemplation. It is a peaceful place for families and friends to gather in prayer, love, and remembrance. It also creates within the precincts of the church/foundation a consoling link between life and death. Many children and extended families of our members live far from Ames, and find return visits rare. Space in the ISU Cemetery is difficult to find, and as burial in a cemetery becomes more expensive, an inurnment in a columbarium becomes a viable choice. We want those who feel a special affinity for CUMC/WF to have the opportunity for their remains to rest here.

Why are Columbaria appropriate for our Church/Foundation?

Theologically: A columbarium helps us to remember the dead and gives comfort to the bereaved. Inurnment on the church grounds makes a statement about the people inurned there. Those who choose to do so identify themselves as believers and recognizes their membership in the community of saints, living and dead.

Liturgically: It sets apart a place for the remembrance of those we love that have gone before us. The simplicity and elegance of the columbaria units harmonize with the architecture and setting of Nichols Chapel.

Pastorally: The closeness of the resting place of our loved ones is a consolation in the midst of loss.

To whom is the columbaria available?

The columbaria is available for the inurnment of human cremains only. It is available to the community-at-large, and particularly to those who have purchased interment rights. We anticipate that most who do so will be those who feel a close connection to Collegiate/Wesley.

Can niches be purchased on a pre-need as well as on an as needed basis?

Arrangements for the purchase of a Columbaria niche can be made by an individual before death, or by the family of the deceased following the death.

How do I make arrangements?

Niches are already being sold. Contact the church office at 515-292-6936. Those purchasing a niche will have the opportunity to select their niche from those remaining at the time of purchase.

What about identification? Who takes care of the engraving?

All niches have a bronze plate on the front. Engraving on the plaques will use a uniform font and will include only the name of the deceased, date of birth, and date of death. No other details or information is allowed. The cost of the engraving, as well as the opening and closing of the niche, is included in the contract for purchase of interment rights.

Will there be a method to record the life of the deceased?

Yes. There will be a Memorial Book in which the family may record significant aspects of the life of the deceased.

What about maintenance?

CUMC/WF will pay for the cost of maintenance of the Columbaria from the reserve fund to be set up for Nichols Chapel. Perpetual care of the Columbaria is assured. If, in the event that the church/foundation would ever build a new building or move to another site, the Columbaria could be moved. Also, the church/foundation boards reserve the right to build new columbaria and provide a new niche of like size and character.

What are visitation times? How will this affect Nichols Chapel?

Nichols Chapel will continue to be a working chapel that is, with occasional worship services, funerals, weddings, small groups, and classes meeting there. However, most of the time, the Chapel will be available for visitation and prayer. Our intent is to have the Chapel open during the hours whenever the building is open. However, if it is locked, a key will be readily available in the church office.

May I place flowers or another remembrance at the Columbaria?

Yes. Floral arrangements may be placed in the chancel area of the Columbaria. Be aware that such arrangements and other items will be cleared from the chapel mid-week.

I’ve already made burial plans, but like the columbarium idea. Is there anything I can do?

We are informed that those who hold burial plots, etc. elsewhere may be able to sell them by advertising them in the newspaper. Those who have pre-paid for funeral services should check their contracts, as you may be able to recover most of what you have paid.

If my plans change, can I re-sell my niche?

If your plans change, you may sell your niche back to CUMC/WF for the original purchase price, providing the plaque has not been engraved. (If it has, there will be only the cost for an unengraved plaque.)