This guide will explain what typically happens at traditional Christian funerals; including Church of England funeral services and Catholic funerals.
What is a Christian funeral?
Christian funerals are bespoke services, tailored to meet the needs of the Christian faith. Christians believe that when someone passes away, it is the end of their life on Earth and they are subsequently judged by God.
Family and close friends gather at Christian funerals to grieve but also to celebrate the life of the deceased. What happens at a Christian funeral can differ depending on each Christian denomination. Generally, Christian funerals are held around a week after someone has passed away.
What happens at a Church of England funeral service?
A Church of England funeral service can be made as personal and unique as you wish. Christians often celebrate the life of the deceased but also take into account the circumstances of the death.
The funeral service can take place almost anywhere, including a church, cemetery or crematorium. A Church of Eng;and funeral service usually follows a general structure, with the order of service including readings, a sermon, prayers and hymns.
In addition, the service may include a eulogy written and delivered by a family member or close friend. Special requests such as the deceased’s favourite music and funeral flowers are customary at Christian funerals. If you're wondering what to take to a Christian funeral; flowers, wreaths and cards are common to see both at Church of England funeral services and Catholic funerals.
The funeral service often ends with a burial or cremation and are followed by a post-funeral reception, commonly known as a wake.
What happens at Catholic funerals?
A Catholic funeral service is led by one or more priests and follows an orderly ritual, including:
- Rite of Committal
Traditionally, the Catholic Church has preferred its members to choose burial, however, cremation is allowed. If a loved one is cremated, their ashes should not be scattered or kept in an urn at home. Instead, the ashes should be buried in a respectful manner.
The Vigil allows family and friends to gather and celebrate the life of the deceased before the actual funeral service. It may take place in the deceased’s home, church or your local funeral home, with prayers and songs offered during this time.
The Funeral Mass is usually held in the church where the deceased worshipped. It is celebrated by a priest and includes the Eucharistic Prayer and the giving of the Holy Communion.
What are Christian funeral rites?
The Rite of Committal is the service performed at the grave site or the cemetery chapel. Cultural rituals such as throwing dirt on the coffin and placing material possessions on the casket are accepted at Catholic funerals.
Christian songs to sing at a funeral
Traditionally, Christians sing a selection of hymns during the funeral service. Usually chosen by family, the hymns are sung at intervals between readings, and are often accompanied by a church organ or similar instrument.
Some favoured hymns for Christian funerals include Amazing Grace, The Lord is my Shepherd and Abide with Me. If you need some inspiration for Christian songs to sing at a funeral, your place of worship will also be able to suggest some suitable hymns to you.
Sources: 'Church of England' and 'The Art of Dying Well'