A fundamental tenet of Christian beliefs is that death signifies two important transitions in a person’s life, which are the end of their physical time on this earth and the time for judgment and a personal reckoning with God.
Those who have lived a good Christian life are deemed righteous and are allowed entry into heaven, where their souls remain forever blessed with God’s love. Those who have led a non-Christian life and have accumulated sins and misdeeds are sent to hell, where there is eternal separation from God’s love.
Accordingly, preparations for Christian burial and the formal Christian funeral are essential yet stressful.
We also know that choosing the best service for the occasion can be challenging and confusing, especially in times of emotion and grief. And if you are quite unsure what is the best service for your particular needs, My Estate Planning understands the importance of funerals. We ensure that every detail is put in place by giving you the security that a loved one is remembered with dignity, and the family is treated with compassion.
An essential first step is to understand why funerals are important to Christian beliefs. Here are five reasons to remember when attending or planning a Christian funeral:We compiled this brief guide to help explain more about why funerals are important to Christians, what you need to consider when planning a Christian funeral service, and how funeral policies offer numerous benefits and advantages for your family.
Understanding the Point of Funeral to Christian Beliefs
It is essential to know that a funeral for Christian is not all about the deceased individual. It is a liturgical or public celebration of the church and its presence in the lives of every individual here on earth. The ministry of the church takes these occasions to:
Within this context, the purpose of a funeral ceremony is multifold. It provides a carefully structured process through which people who are confronted with the death of a loved one can:
- Pay tribute to the life and memory of the deceased
- Begin the formal mourning and grieving process, which usually includes some powerful emotional stages from denial and anger to a final, calming acceptance
- Receive support from friends and the community
- Express the full range of feelings related to the deceased, death itself, and the church and community offering support.
Similarly, the church funeral services are seen as an opportunity to reflect on the deceased’ legacy, their time on earth, and the impact that a person had on other people and the community.
Funeral services also give strength to family and friends who might be struggling in various ways to accept and cope with the loss of a loved one. And finally, it gives the opportunity to pray that the deceased’s soul will find its way to heaven and make the journey as swiftly and effortlessly as possible.
The Rituals of Christian’s Death and Burial
Christian Funeral Service
Christian funerals are usually held within a week after death. The event is usually held in a church (most common for a Catholic funeral) or a crematorium. Regardless of where the funeral ceremony is taking place, it follows a familiar and reassuring pattern of Christian rituals. In chronological order, these rituals are:
- The Gathering
This is an opening of the service, with the priest reading from the scripture. A common passage is taken from the Book of Common Prayer: “‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ saith the Lord; ‘he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.’ I know that my Redeemer liveth.”
- Readings and sermon
Following the gathering are selected readings and sermons, which usually include Psalm 23 (also known as the funeral poem). Often set to music, the Psalm is best known for its focus on trust in God as the Good Shepherd who will protect and care for the deceased on the way to heaven. Without the Shepherd, the Psalm implies that the transforming soul would never complete the journey safely. If necessary, the Shepherd is willing to lay down his life as a servant to the sheep that he cares for.
- Personal readings
The Psalm is followed by what is known as personal readings, which is usually an emotional part of church funeral services. The priest will often talk about the person who has passed, and immediate family members or close friends are invited to share their thoughts and memories about the deceased.
In some cases, the dead are asked for specific hymns or music to be played during this section of the service.
With the personal readings complete, prayers are given. In a Christian funeral, these selections focus on such themes as thanksgiving, penitence or repentance, and emphasising a peaceful acceptance and readiness for death.
Prayers are followed by a quiet time for reflection to remember the deceased and bid them farewell as they begin their new journey to heaven.
- Commendation and farewell
The commendation and farewell are marked formally by the priest speaking these words, “Let us commend (the deceased’s name) to the mercy of God, our Maker and Redeemer.” The priest then reads a prayer that focuses specifically on entrusting and commending the deceased to God’s glory.
- The Committal
The most solemn part of the funeral ceremony is the commitment. At the burial, this is the point at which the coffin is lowered into the ground while at a cremation, the curtains are drawn closed around the coffin. This moment is often accompanied by the final words of Christian burial, “We, therefore, commit this 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.”
How to Personalise the Funeral Service
Within the structure of either a Christian or Catholic funeral, there are numerous ways to personalise service to reflect more intimately the life and memory of the deceased loved one. Some opportunities for personalisation include:
Music selections remind people of memories of the deceased or transport mourners to a different mood by way of helping them cope with their loss. There are several familiar songs for grieving (“Hallelujah,” for instance) or it can also be instrumental.
Readings from scripture, poetry, or even personal letters can be added to any service to help personalise the stories and memories associated with the deceased.
A visitation or reception is an event that allows family, friends, and members of the community to express sympathy to the family of the deceased as well as shared memories and stories. Visitation can take place at the house of the deceased or their nearest relative or the funeral home.
A eulogy is a short speech or piece of writing that commemorates and celebrates the deceased. As part of a funeral ceremony, a eulogy can be solemn or casual and can be delivered by a family member, close friend, or celebrant familiar with the deceased’s life.
5. Symbols and gatherings
Symbols and gatherings can be used to personalise a funeral service in several ways. Religious symbols or pictures, floral sprays, a photo display, tribute video, or even lanterns can personalise while honouring the departed’s life and memory.
Christian Funeral Etiquette
Regardless of how boisterously the deceased might have lived and enjoyed life, Christian funerals are solemn affairs. Understanding funeral etiquette of the moment when attending a service is essential to be respectful of both the deceased and the family. Here are some simple guidelines to follow:
Guideline #1: Although wearing black is not a requirement, you need to dress conservatively and respectfully. Stay away from bright colours, strong patterns, or lengths and styles that might appear less dignified and conscious of the moment’s emotions.
Guideline #2: Turn off your smartphone or keep it in silent mode within the duration of the service. A funeral is not a time to answer text messages, make a call, and take a photo.
Guideline #3: When pondering words of sympathy, adhere to one simple guide: less is more. Do not feel pressured to overstate your condolences when a simple, “I am so sorry for your loss” will prove sufficient. Acknowledging that you care and that you can only imagine how difficult the moment is for the family is powerful.
Guideline #4: Tokens and offerings, however well-intentioned, should be considered carefully. Flowers are a safe choice, and also a donation to a charity, causes, or organisation that reflects the deceased’s interests.
A Well-Lived Life with My Estate Planning
My Estate Planning understands that funerals serve as emotional and powerful events in the lives of every Christian. We work with families every day to help alleviate the stress that accompanies planning a celebration of life while mourning over a loss.
Our years of experience allow us to provide insight, support, and guidance as you consider all the details of your service. From personalisation through the logistics of the day, we offer the benefits and unique options that only come from experience and caring.
Feel free to reach out to us and enquire about one of our carefully curated funeral plans. Purchase one today and take the burden off the shoulders of those who need your support the most.
Speak to our team today, on 0204 516 5969 or send us an email to arrange a consultation.