What is a funeral?
What is a funeral? Not to long ago, funeral services in the UK were always sombre affairs and pretty much everyone wore traditional black funeral clothes.
What is a funeral? Essentially it is when people say their final farewells goodbye to the person who has died. Typically, the dead person is put into a wooden coffin (or casket) and normally either buried in a cemetery or (more commonly nowadays) taken to a crematorium and cremated. Often people prepay and pre arrange their funerals.
These days, more funerals are often celebrations of the dead persons life, friendships and achievements than affairs where people just gather to be miserable together. Some funerals have talking (often a friend or family member will stand up and give a speech or “eulogy” about the deceased), praying, singing, and almost inevitably a fair number of tears.
All sorts of emotions run riot at funerals – from absolute rage to fond remembrances to collapsing into inconsolable sobbing. Others will be offended about the way the funeral has been run (you will never please everyone, sadly!) Almost certainly some noses will have been put out of joint, and whether they are imagined or real issues, someone wise and calm needs to deal with them – grieving widows or widowers are likely to react badly to any criticism. What is a funeral? It should be a celebration if at all possible, not a place or time for people to fight over real or imagined grievances or the Last Will. Sadly, many widows or widowers or common law husbands/ wives will find that the lack of a Last Will from the deceased will shortly make them homeless. See the Rules of Intestacy here.
Some friends and relatives will want to attend the funeral – some won’t as it would upset them.
The funeral service is often followed by some sort of low key party, which will often offend those people who are not invited. Some will only come if there is an open bar and they can drink themselves silly at other people’s expense. Ten of those at the funeral party and the bar bill just for them could easily exceed £1,000.
What is a funeral: the Traditional Church of England Funeral Service.
The Church of England funeral typically follows a clear path: moving upwards from earthly matters to heaven from greeting the mourners, to remembering the deceased, asking all along for God’s comfort and in the end giving the deceased into God’s care.
The minister usually greets the deceased’s coffin at the church door and leads it and the congregation attending the funeral in. The minister will give a reassuring brief reading from the Bible.
Then there is often a hymn or a tribute (eulogy) to the deceased, perhaps by family and friends or by the minister. Sometimes things from person’s life are placed on or near the coffin.
Often there is a prayer for forgiveness. It is usual to feel we have let someone down. We have never done all those things we ideally should have – or have not – done. A prayer for forgiveness can help.
Next in the funeral service comes the readings and sermon
A Psalm comes next, ‘ The Lord is my shepherd’ often as it talks of God being with us to comfort us in death and grief. Bible readings centre on God’s care and eternal life, as does the sermon.
Funeral prayers remind us of the promise of resurrection and ask for God’s presence for the mourners, as well as giving thanks for the deceased’s’ life. The Lord’s Prayer normally finishes this section of the funeral service.
The minister then makes a prayer to ask for God’s love and mercy for the deceased. With a special prayer, deceased is then ‘committed’ for burial or cremation. This may be in church, or at the grave or crematorium as the coffin disappears from view. It draws a very emotional line under the deceased’s life.
In Church of England the funeral finishes with burial of either the coffin or ashes. For a cremation it may be possible to bury the ashes in the churchyard, or alternatively the crematorium’s Garden of Remembrance. The ashes may be buried a few days after the funeral with a very brief service.
What is a funeral?