The Funeral Service
Information on organizing a Funeral service in a church, chapel or public place, that is nominally Christian, but not overly religious.
Funeral Resources for a religious celebrant
A Prayer Book for Australia published in 1995 has a wealth of resources for conducting a funeral service for infants through to the aged and is well worth purchasing. The following service outline may be of assistance.
A traditional service format that is not overly religious
The following service format uses a range of different approaches and sources: C. Nominally Christian (eg. Anglican Prayer Books - AAPB, APBA); N. Neutral (a belief in God); and E. Eastern (eg. Nominally Buddhist). The keys C, N, E, designate each approach. In using this service it is necessary to select from the different options provided to produce a 30 minute service: entry music / a hymn; one of the introductions; one or two sentences; a prayer / meditation; a reading; eulogy; personal words; a poem; a prayer / meditation; reflection; committal; closure: eg. The Lord's Prayer and a blessing; exit music.
Music / Hymn Entry music before the service commences or a hymn at the commencement of the service, eg.
Praise my soul the king of heaven
To his feet you tribute bring
Ransomed, healed restored forgiven,
Who like me his praise should sing
Alleluia, alleluia! praise the everlasting king.
Praise him for his grace and favor
To our fathers in distress;
Praise him still the same as ever.
Slow to blame and swift to bless;
Alleluia, alleluia! glorious in his faithfulness!
Father like he tends and spares us:
All our hopes and fears he knows,
In his hands he gently bears us,
rescues us for all our foes,
Alleluia, alleluia! widely as his mercy flows.
Angels help us to adore him
You behold him face to face;
Sun and moon, bow down before him,
All that is in time and space,
Alleluia, alleluia, praise with us the God of grace!
The Lord's my shepherd: I'll not want;
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green: he leadeth me
The quiet waters by.
My soul he doth restore again,
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E'en for his own name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through death's dark vale,
Yet will I fear no ill;
For thou art with me, and thy rod
And staff me comfort still.
My table thou has furnished
In presence of my foes;
My head with oil thou dost anoint
And my cup overflows.
Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me;
And in God's house for evermore
My dwelling-place shall be.
What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Ev'rything to God in prayer!
Oh what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Ev'rything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer:
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our ev'ry weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge;
Take it to the Lord in prayer:
Do they friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He'll take and shield thee;
Thou wilt find a solace there.
Other suitable Hymns: Abide with me, Rock of Ages, Blest are the ties that bind, Amazing Grace, Nearer my God to thee, Softly and Tenderly
Welcome. A family member may like to thank people for attending and invite all to the afters.
Introduction Minister / Celebrant / MC.
C. Friends, you come together to say farewell to a relative, to honor a departed friend, to dispose reverently of the mortal body and to show sympathy with those who are hurting at this time.
We offer our prayer of thanksgiving and trust to God, in whose care you leave your friend; we recall the certainty of our own coming death; and we proclaim that Christ is risen, that those who believe in him will rise with him, and be united with him forever.
N. We humans have sensed the mystery of death, and the pain of grief, since time immemorial. And so we mark the vale of death by commemorating the passing of those we love.
Today you join together for this memorial service - this affirmation of .......................... life.
You come together to say farewell to a relative, to honor a departed friend, to dispose reverently of the mortal body and to encourage those who are hurting at this time.
Hopefully, this gathering will be an encouragement to all here today. For those who are hurting, may it enable you to acknowledge the loss, give thanks for ......................... life, to affirm it and make your last farewell and then begin to take up life once more.
C. I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. John 11:25-26.
C. I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39.
C. What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, God has prepared for those who seek after him. 1Corinthians 2:9.
Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art, to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul. Longfellow
To sleep; perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause. William Shakespeare. Hamlet
The dead don't die. They look on and help. D.H. Lawrance
The sorrow for the dead is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be divorced. Every other wound we seek to heal, every other affliction to forget; but this wound we consider it a duty to keep open: this affliction we cherish and brood over in solitude. Washington Irvine
"In one sense there is no death. The life of a soul on earth lasts beyond departure. You will always feel that life touching yours, that voice speaking to you. He/She lives on in your life and in the lives of all others that knew him/her." Angelo Patri
"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." - Henry David Thoreau Walden
"For every end no matter how tragic, there will be a new beginning." - Anonymous
E. Whoso is compassionate is everywhere beloved. By the kind and good he is prized as a friend, and at death his heart is full of peace. Namu Amida Butsu
E. To die or not to die ... we really don't have a choice. We can therefore only take care of our life-body, until the fullness of time and being ends our existence on earth." Taitesu Unno
E. Gone, gone, gone beyond. Gone utterly beyond. Oh what an awakening. Heart Sutra.
N. Today in this quiet place we remember the life of N......................., along with all those we have loved and who have gone before. Their faces are before us at this very moment and we remember them and treasure them. There are all the things we should have said and never did, all that we said and should never have said. We may have even missed saying good-by. Yet, they're with us at the sparkle of dawn and dull setting sun. In the unexpected moment they're there. The memories so precious, so warming, touching the heart, shedding a tear. Time seems to dull their face just as it dulls the memories, but the joy and warmth is never dulled. [Lord, dry our tears and warm our memories. Amen]
C. Heavenly Father, in your Son Jesus Christ you have given us a true faith and a sure hope. Help us to live as those who believe in your eternal friendship, the forgiveness of all our failings and the resurrection to eternal life; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. AAPB
C. Loving God, you alone are the source of life. May your life-giving Spirit flow through us, and fill us with compassion, one for another. In our sorrow give us the calm of your peace. Kindle our hope, and let our grief give way to joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. APBA
Item If there is to be a musical item it is best placed here
Reading Read by a family member, or friend, if possible
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
[What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He] God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil - this is the gift of God.
[I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account.]
Psalm 23 Modern
The Lord is my shepherd: therefore I lack nothing.
He will make me lie down in green pastures; and lead me beside still waters
He will refresh my soul: and guide me in right pathways for his name's sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
For you are with me, your rod and staff comfort me.
You spread a table before me: in the face of those who trouble me:
You have anointed my head with oil and my cup will be full.
Surely your goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life:
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
He said to them, "Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. he noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said that you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me."
The Lord replied, "My son, my precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
To die, to sleep; no more;
And by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
The flesh is heir to, tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream; ay there's the rub
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.
Other appropriate Bible Readings: John 5:24-27., 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, 15 selections, John 6:35-40, John11:17-27 Romans 8:31-39, Romans 14:7-9, 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Revelation 21:1-7.
For a non religious reading use a poem, words of a song, or some other suitable reading.
Address A maximum of 5 minutes - the samples are outlines only. Usually by Minister/Celebrant
C. The shepherd of the sheep Ps.23
C. The way, truth and life. Jn.14:1-6
N. A faded photograph, Ecc.3:1-15
John Lennon said "Life is what happens to you while making other plans", and of course, if it's not making other plans it's getting into the "what if's?" - The realestate stories............
I have a photograph in our family album, a faded photograph, probably just like a photo in your family album. It looks like a Christmas day. In the photo is my great grandmother, sitting in a chair surrounded by the family. Her hair is white, her face marked with the passing of time. I have many such photos spanning the years. One day, if I am lucky enough, I may get to sit in a chair like hers, surrounded by my family, although reaching nearly a hundred years old is something beyond most of us.
Don Bradman once said "although death is inevitable, it is not something I approach with any great enthusiasm." N....................... 's death reminds us about the law of impermanence, of the precarious nature of life. It reminds us that time moves quickly by and every moment is precious.
E. Liberation through enlightenment
The Gate of Death is a lesson in life. It teaches about the law of impermanence, of the precarious nature of life. So, death reminds us to be mindful of our daily life and to practice the art of kindly living from moment to moment: to avoid evil, to do good and to purify the mind. In that sense, death benefits the living, teaching us to unlearn our self-centered ways. Great teachings of the past have often pointed to the way beyond our passions. For example, the Five Precepts speak of abstinence from killing, taking what is not given, sexual misconduct, false speech and intoxicants. We do well to use ................... death to remind us of the impermanence of life and of the liberation that can be ours through enlightenment.
Impermanent alas are formations, subject to rise and fall.
Having arisen, they cease; their subsiding is bliss.
Eulogy Presented by a family member, friend or the minister. Five to seven minutes
Personal Words A few sentences by family members or friends
Poem At this point, a poem read by say a grandchild is very appropriate
Miss Me But Let Me Go
"When I come to the end of the road and the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom filled room. Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little - but not too long, and not with your head held low
Remember the love that we once shared. Miss me - but let me go
For this is a journey that we all must take, and each must go alone
It's all a part of the Master's plan, a step on the road to home."
The clock of life
The clock of life is wound but once,
and no man has the power
to tell just when the hands will stop
at late or early hour.
Now is the only time you own
live, love, toil with a will
place no faith in tomorrow, for
the clock may then be still
All is well .......... Cannon H. Scott Holland
"Death is just an open door
I have only slipped away
into the next room.
I am I, and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
that we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name,
speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone,
wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was,
let it be spoken without effect,
without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
it is the same as it ever was;
there is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near;
safe and secure,
all is well."
My Mother's Garden
My Mother kept a garden
A garden of the heart
She planted all the good things
That gave my life its start
She turned me to the sunshine
And encouraged me to dream
Fostering and nurturing
The seeds of self-esteem
And when the winds and rains came
She protected me enough
But not too much, she new I'd need
To stand up strong and tough
Her constant good example
Always taught me right from wrong
Markers for my pathway
That will last a lifetime long
I am my Mother's garden
I am her legacy
And I hope today she feels the love
Reflected back from me.
Don't grieve for me ....... Thresiamma Abraham
Don't grieve for me, for I'm free
I'm following the path God laid for me
I took his hand when I heard his call,
I turned my back and left it all.
I could not stay another day,
To laugh, to love, to work or play
Tasks left undone must stay that way,
I've found that peace at the close of day.
If my parting has left a void,
Then fill it with remembered joy,
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss,
Ah, yes, these things I too will miss.
Be not burdened with times of sorrow,
I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow,
My life's been full, I savored much
Good friends, good times, a loved one's touch.
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief
Don't lengthen it now with undue grief
Lift up your hearts and share with me,
God wanted me now, He has set me free.
I am vertical ....... Sylvia Plath
I am vertical
But I would rather be horizontal.
I am not a tree with my root in the soil
Sucking up minerals and motherly love
So that each March I may gleam into leaf.
Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed
Attracting my share of "ahs" and "spectacularly painted"
And knowing I must soon unpetal.
Compared to me, a tree is immortal
And a flower-head not tall, but more startling.
And I want the one's longevity and the other's daring.
Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars
The trees and the flowers have been stewing their cool odors.
I walk among them, but none of them are noticing.
Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping
I must perfectly resemble them - thoughts gone dim.
It is more natural to me, lying down.
Then the sky and I are in open conversation,
And I shall be useful when I lie down finally;
Then the trees may touch me for once,
And the flowers have time for me.
God looked around his garden and he found an empty place.
And then he looked down upon the earth, and saw your tired face.
He put his arms around you, and lifted you to rest.
God's garden must be beautiful, he always takes the best.
He knew that you were suffering, he knew you were in pain,
He knew that you would never get well on earth again.
He saw the road was getting rough, and the hills were hard to climb.
So he closed your weary eyelids, and whispered "Peace be thine."
It broke our hearts to lose you, but you didn't go alone,
For part of us went with you, the day God called you home.
I did not die
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow,
I am the gentle shower of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain,
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight.
I am the starshine of the night,
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room,
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there - I did not die.
Prayer/Meditation Choose either a poem or a prayer
N. When I am dead, cry for me a little.
Think of me sometimes, but not too much.
It is not good to allow your thoughts to dwell too long on the dead.
Think of me now and again as I was in life at some time pleasant to recall, but not for long.
Leave me in peace and I shall leave you in peace.
While you live let your thoughts be with the living. An Indian Prayer
N. May we forgive the failings of those we love
May we show compassion to those who are hurting
May we know peace,
May our sorrow turn to joy
May we be filled with hope for tomorrow. [Amen]
Holy and loving Father, you gave us life when you created us, and in your redeeming love you have given us new life in Christ Jesus. We give you thanks for, N......................... In faith and trust we leave her/him in your keeping; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who died and rose again to save us, and now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit in glory for ever. Amen.
Loving Lord, we thank you for the gifts and talents of N........, the years he/she shared with friends and family, the good that was so evident in his/her life. He/she stood by the crew and helped them, cheered and gave them sympathy, strengthened them by his/her example. May he/she rest in peace.[Amen]
We have come together with a deep sense of loss at the death of this child, N........ We share the sadness of his/her family, and seek to support them in their grief. [Jesus taught that heaven belongs to those with a childlike trust, so we leave this little person in His care. Amen.]
Reflection A piece of music is played here, where possible, a favorite of the deceased. Or, RSL/Masonic tribute. Increasingly power point presentations are being used at funerals and this seems the best moment in the service for a visual presentation. The photos and video clips should be confined to the length of one song. Lengthy presentations are too draining.
The Committal The congregation usually stands.
C. Man that is born of woman is of few days, and full of trouble.
He comes forth like a flower, and withers. He passes like a shadow and does not stay.
In the midst of life we are in death.
From whom may we seek help, but from you Lord God,
though you are justly displeased on account of our failings?
And yet, Lord God almighty, most holy and most merciful Savior,
deliver us from the bitterness of eternal death.
You know the secrets of our hearts;
mercifully hear us, most worthy judge eternal; keep us, at our last hour, in the consolation of your love.
N/E. It is no small thing to have enjoyed the sun, to have lived light in the spring, to have loved, to have thought, to have done. Matthew Arnold.
The words of committal
C. Almighty God, our heavenly Father, you have given us a sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life; in your keeping are all those who have departed in Christ. We here commit the body of our dear sister/brother N..................... to the ground/to be cremated: earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died, and was buried, and rose again for us, and who shall change our mortal body that it might be like his glorious body. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord!. Amen
N/E. We here commit the body of our dear sister/brother N..................... to the ground/to be cremated: earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
E. Death is not the end it is the beginning. He/She is now free from all worldly attachments and continues on the journey to transcend suffering and achieve liberation.
N. Death be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so. John Donne
C. Saint John tells us: I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth, 'Blessed indeed', says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors." Rev.14:13
The Lord's Prayer
Let us join together in the Lord's Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
for ever and ever. Amen.
A Closing Prayer
C. Support us, O Lord, all the days of our life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over and our work done. Then, good Lord, in your kindness, grant us a safe home and peace at last. Amen.
N. I shall pass this way but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it; for I shall not pass this way again. [Amen.]
N. God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference [Amen]. The Serenity Prayer
N. May the road rise to meet us;
May the wind be always at our back;
May the sun shine warm upon our face,
The rain fall soft upon our fields,
[And until we meet again,
May God hold us in the palm of his hand. Amen]
Now to him who is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with everlasting joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. Jude 24, 25.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord; And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen
Concluding Music / Song
Note order changes between a single service or a two-part service. The format here is a single service. For a two-part service [part 1: church or chapel & part 2: crematorium or grave side] the order of the service from Eulogy/Personal Words is:
The Lord's Prayer,
May God in his infinite love bring us all, living and departed in the Lord Jesus, to a joyful resurrection and the fulfillment of his eternal kingdom. Amen.
Note also that people do not like an overtly religious service which is preachy and parsonic and goes longer than 30 minutes. Yet, in my own experience I have found that the majority of people do not mind a simple service that reflects the Christian faith. Naturally, in the end, the service should always reflect the deceased' spiritual convictions. Remember, do not overpack the service - KISS (keep it simple stupid!).
Index of studies: Resource library
Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources
Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons