The service will follow a clear plan. The focus moves from earth to heaven as the service moves from greeting the mourners, to remembering the one who has died all the while asking for God’s comfort and then committing your loved one into God’s care.
Entry of the coffin
Traditionally, the minister meets the coffin at the door and leads it and the mourners in. The minister will say some reassuring words from the Bible, for example:
‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies,’ says the Lord (John 11:25).
‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:38+9)
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.’ (Matthew 5:4).
Welcome and Introduction
After the welcome and first prayer, there may be a hymn or a tribute to the person who has passed away. This can be done by family and friends or the minister. Sometimes symbols of the person’s life are placed on or near the coffin as a part of this.
Sometimes there is a prayer for forgiveness. It’s common to feel we have let a loved one down after they die, that there were things we could have done or should not have done. The prayer for forgiveness can help with these feelings.
Readings and sermon
A Psalm comes next, ‘ The Lord is my shepherd’ is comforting because it speaks of God being with us in death and grief. The Bible readings focus on God’s care and the hope of eternal life. The sermon speaks of the Christian hope of life beyond death and relates it to your loved one.
The funeral prayers recall the promise of the resurrection. They ask for God’s presence with those who mourn and give thanks for your loved one’s life. The prayers normally end with the Lord’s Prayer.
Commendation, Farewell and Committal
The minister says a prayer to commend the person to God’s love and mercy. Then the body is ‘committed’ for burial or cremation.
We now commit his/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…
The committal prayer might be said in church, or at the graveside, or in a crematorium as the curtains close around the coffin. It will be a very emotional time, a clear ‘Goodbye’ to your loved one for this life.
In Christian tradition the funeral ends with a burial of either the coffin or ashes. If you have chosen a cremation you may bury the ashes in the churchyard, or use the crematorium’s Garden of Remembrance. The ashes may be buried a few days after the funeral with a very brief service.