What Happens in a Christian Funeral?

Oct 26, 2023

A Christian funeral gives friends and family the opportunity to both celebrate the life of their loved one, and mourn their passing. Church of England and Catholic funerals will vary, though they do have many similarities. A Christian funeral will include hymns, prayers, readings, as well as the burial or cremation. Generally, the formal funeral is followed by a wake, where food and drink are shared.

Understanding Christian Funerals

Christians believe that when you die, you will go to either heaven, hell or purgatory, depending on how you have lived your life. The funeral will help the deceased’s passage to the afterlife, as well as allow the family and friends to celebrate and mourn their loved one.

Types of Christian Funerals

Christian funerals include both Church of England and Catholic funerals. Generally, Catholic funerals include more rites and prayers than their Church of England counterparts, with funeral mass. Catholics believe that a funeral gives the chance to pray for the souls who have gone to purgatory, for sins which can be forgiven. The funeral gives them the time to pray for the deceased to help them move from purgatory to heaven. The Church of England doesn’t believe in purgatory, but just in the concepts of heaven and hell. A Church of England funeral will include a eulogy as part of the funeral service.

What Happens During a Funerals

A Church of England funeral will include prayers, hymns, reading and a sermon, it will often include a eulogy about the deceased. The funeral usually takes place in a church, and the burial or cremation follows the service. A Catholic funeral service includes a vigil, mass, rite of committal and burial. Catholics will accept cremation, but the ashes should be buried, not scattered or kept in an urn.

How Long is a Christian Funeral?

A Christian funeral service lasts around an hour, though this does depend on what is included in the service, and whether the burial or cremation site is nearby. A Catholic funeral service can last longer, as it will include mass. Christian funerals will be followed by a wake, which can last for many hours whilst people reminisce about the life of the deceased.

What to Take to a Christian Funeral?

You may wish to take flowers or a condolence card to a funeral. Some people stipulate no flowers, or donations to a chosen charity that was dear to the deceased, in lieu of flowers or gifts. It can be nice to give practical gifts instead, such as a cooked meal, or an offer of babysitting, for example. The period of time after a death can be extremely difficult for the family, and practical help and support can be more useful and valued at this time than material gifts.

What to Wear to a Christian Funeral?

If you are unsure about what to wear to a Christian funeral, then sensible black or dark formal clothes are the safest bet. Nothing too revealing or immodest. Some people will ask mourners to wear bright clothes, or an item in the deceased’s favourite colour, but they will let you know if this is their wish. If you are in any doubt, always opt for discreet, dark clothes. Head coverings are not necessary, though you may choose to wear a hat or head covering if it is dark and respectable.

What are the Common Funeral Rites?

Christian funeral rites differ between a Catholic and a Church of England funeral. Catholics place more emphasis on the funeral rites, and these will include a vigil, mass, rite of committal and burial. A Church of England funeral service will include prayers, hymns, readings, and the burial or cremation. There will probably be an order of service at the funeral, which should show you the order of events, and show you what will happen and in what order.

What are the Funeral Songs at a Christian Funeral?

Music is an important part of both Catholic and Church of England funerals. Coming together to sing, in celebration of the life of a loved one, is a special part of the service. Many people will have left instructions about the songs, or hymns, which they would like at their funeral. If you are unsure of which funeral hymns your loved one would have enjoyed, then we can always help you to choose a suitable hymn, or your vicar may be able to suggest some. Popular hymns include Amazing Grace, The Lord is My Shepherd and Abide with Me, though there are many hymns available to choose from.

Christian Funeral Prayers

Prayers are another important aspect of the Christian funeral service. The deceased may have had a favourite prayer, which they have requested be included at their service. Commonly included funeral prayers are The Lord’s Prayer, Catholic Funeral Prayer, Christ Be With Me, Psalm of Comfort and I Corinthians 15:51-57. If you are attending a Christian funeral, the prayers are often included in the order of service, so you should be able to join in with the prayers, even if you don’t know the words.

When does a Christian Funeral Service Take Place?

Funerals can only take place after the death certificate has been obtained from the registrar. Your undertaker will need the correct paperwork in order to arrange the funeral for you. Funerals are usually within around 2 weeks of the death of the deceased, though some people like to delay the funeral to allow people time to organise their travel arrangements, especially if you have many people coming from overseas. Christianity has no stipulations on the length of time between the death and the funeral, unlike some other religions, where there is a preferred length of time. Funerals do take time to organise, and you may need to be flexible on dates when arranging a funeral. They are often during the week and may be offered at set times which fit in with existing scheduled services within the church, or crematorium.

Where is the Funeral Held?

Catholic funerals are generally held in a church, often in the church where the deceased worshipped. Here the priest will say mass, and the burial site is often in the graveyard connected to the church. Church of England funerals can take place in a church, cemetery, or crematorium. Depending on whether the service is followed by a burial or cremation, will often determine the location of the funeral. However, some Christian funerals may start off in a church, before moving to another location for the final commitment of the body. The wake can be held at a function room, a pub, or a family home, depending on how people are expected. The organiser of the funeral will usually invite the mourners to the wake following the service.

Do You Need to be a Christian to Attend Christian Funeral Services?

If you are not a Christian and not religious, you don’t need to worry. The Church is welcoming and inclusive, and the order of service will show you what is happening if you have never been to a Christian funeral. Generally, the vicar or other church leader will be very clear on what is going to take place and will ask the congregation to stand or sit where relevant, and tell you when to join in with prayers and hymns. Many people who were not actively religious or practising Christians still want to have a Christian funeral when they pass away, and the church does not turn away people who are not active Christians. Even if you are not religious, and don’t believe in God or the church, you can still find comfort in the gathering together of mourners, and celebrating the life of a loved one.

Post-Funeral Practices

Funerals are generally followed by wakes, where the mourners join together to celebrate the life of their loved one. Wakes give people a chance to reminisce about the deceased and share stories and anecdotes from the past. Traditionally, wakes were held in the house of the family of the deceased, though people often choose to go to a local pub or function room instead. There will be food and drink at a wake, which you will be invited to share. Wakes can go on for many hours, but you can stay for as long as you feel is right.

Looking for a Funeral Director in Lancashire?

Funerals can be very sad occasions, but it is important to mark the passing of a life and to celebrate your loved one. Even if you are not religious, there is something comforting about churches, music, and joining together with other mourners. Here at NC Funerals, we are here to help families through this difficult time. It can be very stressful to arrange a funeral for your loved one, and we will be by your side every step of the way. If you are looking for a funeral director in Lancashire, and looking for alternative funerals, our funeral home are always open, simply contact us today.

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