Understanding the Christian Funeral Tradition

For many, a funeral symbolizes not the end of life, but passing from one life to the next. Christian Funeral tradition is closely associated with the belief that death is the completion of one phase of life and the beginning of another.

Christian Funeral Tradition - A Brief Background

Throughout the world, Christian funerals can vary in their customs, but many practices are common among different types of religion. Here are the most common:

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  • Public Announcement of the death – Obituary or Notice which give details of
    • The date of death and
    • When the funeral will take place.
  • Preparation of the body – involves:
    • Embalming, clothing or wrapping the body in cloth and placing in a casket, coffin or other container
  • The Funeral Service. This is when family and friends gather to say goodbye. The service may include:
    • songs,
    • prayers,
    • music,
    • speeches,
    • readings
    • Eulogies.
  • Disposing of the body. This can be done in any of the following ways:
    • Burial in the ground at a cemetery
    • Burial above ground in a mausoleum or Cremation
    • Stored in an Urn
    • Scattering the Remains.
  • Mourning Period. The time during which friends and loved ones express their grief. Some may refuse any form of entertainment, wear black clothes or refuse to eat certain foods.

The easy way to plan a Christian Funeral the Episcopalian (Anglican) way.

The tradition of burial in the Episcopalian (Anglican) Church is just like Easter service. Its association with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Surprisingly, this tradition is common among other religions. Many people are familiar with this format, but never understood its origins.

Contact the church before you make any plans.

Before you start making plans for a Christian Funeral, contact the priest at your local church or the church you plan to use. Make sure you understand their practices. The church may restrict the following:

  • How many flowers can be brought to the church
  • Whether you can have a Eulogy
  • The type of music
  • Photography

In most cases, the priest will comply with what you want to do. The priest will always provide full support if you are not able to decide on the services.

The Book of Common Prayer is essential in planning a Christian Funeral. It governs the order for all services in the Episcopal Church. Also available is the American Book of Common Prayer, it simplifies the language used in the old common book of prayer

There are five versions of the Christian Funeral in the Episcopal Church you can choose from:

  1. Order of Service Rite I – Uses traditional Elizabethan language and preferred by older people and people raised in the Episcopal tradition.
  2. Order of Service Rite II –  Extensive use of contemporary and more sensitive language
  3. Order for Christian Burial – For those who were not baptized but want a Christian burial
  4. Order for Burial of a Child
  5. Order for Burial of Those Not Professing the Christian Faith

The Start of the process – Receiving the body at the Church

You can have the body in place at the church body before the congregation gathers or have the priest meet the body and lead inside the church. This is accompanied by the signing of an anthem of music.

Inside the Church – Let the funeral service begin!

After the singing and reading of the psalm, prayers are said on behalf of the grieving. The scripture readings may include one or more passages from the Holy Scripture, followed by reading Psalms and singing hymns. If the service is to include communion, there is a final reading from the gospel.

Let's pay tribute to our loved one – delivering the Eulogy or Homily

This is an opportunity to pay tribute to the deceased. You may choose to have a family member, friend or the priest deliver the Eulogy. Please check with your church to see if eulogies are allowed.

Let us pray - Offering Prayers.

Prayers are said for the deceased, the grieving family and for the Christian community, remembering the promises of God in Christ for eternal life.

Saying Goodbye – Commending the body in the church or at the graveside

During this section of the service, the priest performs the commendation of the body to God and commits the body to its final resting play.

Holy Communion – The body and blood of Christ

If communion is included in the service, it will come before the commendation. The ceremony of Peace and the Offering of the bread and wine marks the start of communion. You may choose which prayers you would like to be said during this time.

If you wish, the priest will continue to offer pastoral support long after the deceased is laid to rest.

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