If someone you know and love has died, a funeral led by a Church of England minister can be held in church, in a churchyard, by a graveside, or at a crematorium. The minister will be there to support you every step of the way.
Christians believe that each and every person is uniquely made in the image of God. So a Church of England funeral is a good place to give thanks for all that was special about the person you knew and loved.
It can also include unique details, whether that is what people wear, the music that is played, readings that are chosen or simply a photograph at the front. Talk to the minister about the person you want to give thanks for and the life you want to celebrate. They will help you work out what is possible.
The prayers at a funeral can also reflect a unique life. They could include prayers for work or a hobby that has been important, for those who have cared during a final illness and for family members by name. They can be led by the vicar or by someone amongst family or friends who is at ease leading prayers in public.
First Steps in arranging a funeral
After the initial news of the death of someone you knew and loved, there are some important things that need to be done. These are two of the more immediate things:
Register the death. There is some helpful guidance on this on the government’s births, marriages, and deaths advice page.
Meet a Funeral Director. If you’re not yet sure which one to use, you can find one near to you on the National Association of Funeral Directors’ website, or on the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) website.
The Funeral Director will talk to you about what kind of funeral you would like.
One of the first questions they’ll ask is whether you’d like a burial or a cremation. You might like to discuss this with other family members if you’re not sure what the preference was of the person who died.
You’ll then be asked where you would like the service to be held. There’s more you can find out about locations on this site.
The Funeral Director will ask about various details, including:
Whether the funeral should be civil, humanist or religious. Remember you don’t have to be religious or a churchgoer to have a Church of England funeral – it is open to all.
Whether there is a particular minister or celebrant you have in mind to take the funeral.
What sort of coffin you would like.
How you would like the coffin to be transported to the service.
Whether you would like flowers.
They might ask whether you have any thoughts on music or other special ideas to reflect the life of the person you knew. The person who leads the service will talk to you more about this.
There are helpful websites that offer local contacts for some of these choices, such as funeralservicesguide.com/ and funeralguide.co.uk/. Your Funeral Director will also have contacts nearby.
If you choose to have a Church of England funeral, someone from the church will visit you to listen to the story of the person you knew, and will go through all the details of the funeral service itself.
Where can a funeral take place?
When someone dies, a Church of England funeral is available for them in their own parish, whether they were churchgoers or not. At the moment, a small funeral can be led by a church minister in a churchyard, cemetery, crematorium or green burial site. It may also be possible to have the funeral in a church building, but the minister can advise on this.
Visit A Church Near You to check you live in the Parish Boundaries or to find out what your local church is. In the results of your search, click on a church’s name and the contact details should be displayed. You can usually telephone or email, and it will be either the vicar or another church contact will respond to your enquiry as soon as they can.
Families who wish to have a cremation may decide to have the whole funeral at a crematorium. The service would take place in the building and the coffin would remain there afterwards for the cremation. Funeral Directors and ministers are currently obliged to ensure government guidelines on social distancing are also followed.
Involving the church at a cremation
A church minister can lead the whole service at the crematorium. Under normal circumstances, it’s possible to have part of the service at the crematorium and part of it in a church, and the church part can take place before or after the cremation service. The church minister can help you decide which is the best option for you and your family. The church minister can also be there for you after the funeral and can offer prayers for when it is time to put the ashes in their final resting place.
There are several options if you choose to have a traditional burial in the ground. These are burial locations your church minister can come to:
An outdoor or green burial site
An outdoor funeral brings the sights and sounds of nature into a funeral service. Whilst there’s some risk of bad weather, it can be just the right choice for some funerals. The coffin will be carried out to the burial site and the minister can do the whole funeral at the graveside.
Involving the church at a green burial site
In the future, when the lockdown situation is eased, and when the government says it is safe to do so, a service can take place in the church, followed by a shorter time of prayers by the graveside at the moment when the coffin is to be placed in the ground. It doesn’t matter if the burial ground is in a different location from the church. The minister and the funeral director will let you know how they can help you organise this.
In a cemetery or churchyard
If the person who has died can be buried in a cemetery, the minister can take the whole service outside at the graveside. There are no burials at St. Mary's but the minister can conduct the burial service at other locations.
Involving the church at a cemetery or churchyard burial
A service in the church can take place first, then when the time comes for placing the coffin into the ground, everyone may move outside or it might be a more intimate group of friends and relatives. If the cemetery is in a different place to the church, the minister and Funeral Director can help you organise this.
Step-by-step Guide to a Funeral Service
Wherever you choose to have a funeral, it will reflect the unique life of the person you knew. Whatever will help to make the funeral special - music, hymns, reading, tributes, even the type of coffin - can be part of a Church of England funeral. Talk to you minister about what is possible. We;re with you ever step of the way.
When everyone has arrived at the funeral venue, the coffin will be carried by the pallbearers, (who could be family or friends), into the building or onto the burial site depending on where the funeral is to take place.
When everyone is gathered, a hymn may be sung. It is fine if you don't want anyone hymns, but if you do, Speak with your minister about your options.
When everyone is gathered, a hymn may be sung. It is fine if you don't want anyone hymns, but if you do, here are some popular choices for funerals:
MUSIC FOR ADULTS
Abide with me
All things bright and beautiful
Be still for the presence of the Lord
Dear Lord and Father
For the beauty of the Earth
Great is thy faithfulness
The Lord is my shepherd
Lead us heavely Father lead us
Lord of all hopefulness
Lord of the dance
Love divine all loves excelling
Make me a channel of your peace
Old rugged cross
The day though gavest
Music for Children
Christ beside me
Thank you for the gifts we treasure
There is a place
Remembering a Unique Life
One of the most appriciated parts of the service for those who attend funerals, is to hear about the loves, passions, and lives of the one we love but see no longer.
The Tribute, also known as a Eulogy, is a wonderful opportunity to show people all about the person we are saying good-bye to.
Who has to write The Tribute
This can be written by one individual or even be a collection of different thoughts and memories of the deceased. If you, or someone in the family, does not feel able to write The Tribute then speak with the minister and they can help you write it.
It may include a reading and/or music which reflect the character or interests of the person who has died.
Who gets to read The Tribute
It is often encouraging, where people feel able, for a member of the family to read out The Tribute. If you or others do not feel up to this then it is possible for the minister to read this out on your behalf. It is even possible to for a member of the family to start reading the tribute and if for any reason they cannot continue, the minister can continue for them.
A Message of Hope (Bible Readings)
Christians believe that when we die, God promises that we will be with him in a wonderful place where death and pain are gone forever. Whatever the circumstances of death, these words of hope are a great comfort to those who attend a funeral.
When someone dies, although we can’t see the person we love anymore, Christians believe that through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will see that person again. It might be in a very different form, in a very different way, but that is the Christian hope, and that is the message everyone will hear when they come to a Church of England funeral.
You can choose the Bible reading for this part of the service if you would like to. Some popular choices are offered below.
The minister will speak about God's promises - of the hope that death is not the end.
Whatever your beliefs, hearing these words can bring a sense of hope and comfort even at this very difficult time.
Jesus Comforts His Disciples
14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus the Way to the Father
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
A New Heaven and a New Earth
21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.
1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
1You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
19If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Reflecting and Remembering
In a time of reflection, music can be played, or silence may be kept. Prayers will be said too.
At this point, it might be appropriate to lay flowers on the coffin or express your sadness and loss in another way. Some families choose a cardboard coffin so that messages or pictures can be drawn on it. Perhaps a poem or reading may be just right.
Talk to your minister about any ideas you might have. Tell them all about the person you knew and love and they can offer suggestions for special ways to make it personal.
In your order of service, there may also be time for another hymn, if you'd like that. Talk to your minister about how much time you'll have, especially if the funeral is taking place at the crematorium.
It will then be time for the farewell. The minister will pray, asking God to keep your loved one in God's care, using words that have been used for centuries:
"... earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust: in sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ"
This may be a very emotional moment. It may be possible to have some special music played at this point.
The minister will say a blessing and music may be played as the mourners leave the venue.