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by Helen Clemow last modified 29 Apr, 2013 12:52 PM

The Church can offer vital support during difficult times...

Arranging a Funeral

A funeral marks the close of a human life on earth. It is the opportunity for friends and family to express their grief, to give thanks for the life which has now completed its journey in this world and to commend the person into God's keeping.

It is a time in the lives of those who remain which can be difficult and traumatic, as they handle lots of different emotions. If you are now in this situation, may we first express our sympathy and our hope that we can be of help in the days which lie ahead.

There are several different styles of funerals.

  • Short services in Church with only a few members of the family present
  • Occasions of great solemnity with music, hymns and a church packed with friends and family
  • Services at a crematorium
  • Church services followed by burial at a local cemetery
  • Church services followed by a short service at the crematorium

Wherever it takes place, we aim that the service is appropriate for you as a family and the memories of your loved one. The service will tell their story and may have hymns, favourite prayers and readings, an address. Whatever the pattern of service, the words and actions all speak of a loving God and the preciousness to Him of every human being.

Funerals: the best send-off needs a good plan- The Independent, April 2013

A Funeral Service...

...will reflect the personality of the one who has died, and the circumstances of their death. Feelings of grief, gratitude, joy and sadness often intermingle. Sometimes, a sense of tragedy is uppermost, especially when it is a young person who has died. When it is the end of a long and fruitful life, the feelings of thanksgiving can be strongest.

Funeral services always raise profound questions about the meaning of life and death. Jesus himself believed in a life-giving God: 'the God of the living, not of the dead.' Christians believe that Christ's resurrection is the triumph of good over evil and of life over death and brings the promise of life beyond death.

The Service

...begins with the minister coming into church (often in front of the people carrying the coffin) reading aloud reassuring words of Jesus from the Bible: 'I am the resurrection and the life,' says the Lord. 'Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.' (John 11.25,26), 'Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.' (Matthew 5.4) and 'God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.'(John 3.16).

After a welcome from the minister, a hymn is usually sung and this is followed by someone telling the story of the person's life. We encourage members of the family or friends to do this, because they were closest to the person who died and are able to give the best insight into the life that has ended. However, sometimes people are too upset or feel unable to do so.

A reading from the Bible usually follows with an address or a sermon which talks of Christian beliefs about life beyond death. Such words aim to be a comfort and strength to the mourners.

This is usually followed by prayers for all involved and the Lords Prayer. After a final hymn, the minister entrusts the dead person to the love and mercy of God in the words of the commendation.

At this point, the service moves on to a set of prayers called The Committal, a particularly solemn moment of the funeral service. It takes place either at the graveside or, in the case of a cremation, in the crematorium chapel or in church before the hearse leaves for the crematorium.

In the cemetery or churchyard, the family will gather round the open grave into which the coffin is lowered and they will hear the words: 'We therefore commit his (or her) body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life.' Handfuls of earth may be scattered on the coffin.

In a crematorium, the words of committal may be accompanied by the closing of a curtain to hide the coffin from view or the coffin is moved slowly out of sight. The committal can be a very emotional moment. Many who are suffering grief find that, even in their sadness, the words of prayer can lift them towards the experience of Christian rejoicing in the knowledge of life beyond death. The offering of prayer and the trust that the person is in God's safe hands can begin the process of healing the grief of loss.

The Service usually takes place according to the Common Worship Service (2000).
Read it here 

Arranging a funeral

The person who has died might have left a paragraph in their Will describing the sort of funeral arrangements they hoped for. Naturally, the family will want to keep to such arrangements as far as possible.

Not everyone knows that they have the right to a funeral in their parish church even if they have not been church-goers. Nor do practising Christians always realise that they can have a Communion service as part of the funeral.

Parish clergy regard the taking of funerals as an important part of their work. They give a lot of time to visiting families, comforting those who are facing loss, finding out what service they want to use and helping them to arrange it.

If a local minister is to be asked to take the service, this should be done before any other funeral arrangements are made to make sure one is free and available. If the minister did not know the person who has died, then it would help to provide some details.

The funeral director plays a very important part in all these arrangements and will want to know if the funeral is to be in the parish church or if the minister is to take the service in the crematorium. Funeral directors know the local ministers, the local cemeteries and the crematoria. As part of a national network of funeral directors, they can, if necessary, give advice on funerals in other parts of the country, as well as on costs and fees.

Burials and cremations

In many country parishes, the churchyard is still open for burials and the parish clergy are able to advise on suitable memorials. In most towns, burials now take place in the local cemetery and the funeral director can advise. If the churchyard is still open for burials, the person who has died may be buried there if they lived or died in the parish, whether or not they regularly attended church.

These days, six out of ten funerals make use of the crematorium. This leaves the question of what is to be done with the ashes. Crematoria have gardens of rest where they can be buried and many churchyards have a special place set aside for burying ashes even when there is no space left for graves.

When this burial takes place, usually a few days after the funeral, a further very brief service can be held if the family wish it and some suitable commemorative mark or record may be made.

After the funeral

People who have lost someone close to them are often so busy with practical details and arrangements between the death and the funeral that they do not experience the full sense of their loss until later.

Grieving is a natural and important part of coming to terms with and healing this loss and it may continue for several months. The local church is there to help with support after a funeral. Please speak to your minister. Sometimes it is those who have suffered a close bereavement themselves, clergy or lay people, who can most easily offer comfort and support to those who mourn.

Comfort is also to be found in the promises of Jesus Christ, in the hope of the Resurrection and in the belief that the beloved person is safe in the hands of God.

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