Funeral service step by step

With you at every step

Wherever you choose to have a funeral, it will reflect the unique life of the person you knew. Whatever will help to make the funeral special – music, hymns, readings, tributes, even the type of coffin – can be part of a Church of England funeral. We’re with you at every step of the way.

The Arrival

When everyone has arrived at the funeral venue, the coffin will be carried by the pall-bearers, (who could be family or friends), into the building or onto the burial site, depending on where the funeral is to take place.

If the funeral is in a crematorium or in a church, your choice of music can be played as the coffin is carried in. You may prefer no music, and that is fine too.

Some funerals taking place outdoors have included live music at this point, such as a flautist or trumpeter, to accompany the coffin to the graveside. But it’s totally up to you – it’s also fine to have no music at all. The minister may also say some words of comfort and hope as the coffin is being carried.

Choosing a hymn

When everyone is gathered, a hymn may be sung. It is fine if you don’t want any hymns, but if you do, here are some popular choices for funerals:

Hymns for adults
Abide with me
All things bright and beautiful
Amazing grace
Be still for the presence of the Lord
Dear Lord and Father
For the beauty of the earth
Great is thy faithfulness
The Lord is my shepherd
Lead us heavenly Father lead us
Lord of all hopefulness
Lord of the dance
Love divine all loves excelling
Make me a channel of Your peace
Old rugged cross
The day thou gavest
The King of love my shepherd is

Hymns for children
Christ be beside me
Thank you for the gifts we treasure
There is a place


A message of hope

After the hymn, there is time to listen to the story of the person you knew and loved. You, another friend or relative, or the church minister can do this.
It may include readings and/or music which reflect the character or interests of the person who has died. Here are some popular readings for funerals:-

‘The Ship’ by Bishop Charles Brent 

I am standing on the seashore.
A ship sails in the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.
She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her
till at last she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says,
‘She is gone’.

Gone! Where? Gone from my sight – that is all.
She is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her,
and just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.
The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me,
not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says,
‘She is gone’, there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices
take up a glad shout: ‘There she comes’ – and that is dying.

‘If I should go’ by Joyce Grenfell

If I should die before the rest of you,
break not a flower nor inscribe a stone,
nor, when I’m gone, speak in a Sunday voice,
but be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must: parting is hell.
But life goes on.
So sing as well.

‘You can shed tears’ by David Harkins

You can shed tears that he is gone, or you can smile because he has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back, or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him, or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember him and only that he is gone, or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back, or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

Remember Me by Christina Rosetti

Remember me when I am gone away,
gone far away into the silent land;
when you can no more hold me by the hand,
nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
you tell me of our future that you planned:
only remember me; you understand
it will be too late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
and afterwards remember, do not grieve:
for if the darkness and corruption leave
a vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
better by far that you should forget and smile
than that you should remember and be sad.

‘Crossing the bar’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Sunset and evening star;
and one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
when I put out to sea.

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
too full for sound and foam,
when that which drew from out the boundless deep
turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
and after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness or farewell,
when I embark.

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
the flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
when I have crost the bar.


A message of hope

You can choose the Bible reading for this part of the service if you would like to. Some popular choices are offered below.

The minister will speak about God’s promises – of the hope that death is not the end.

Whatever your beliefs, hearing these words can bring a sense of hope and comfort, even at this very difficult time.

John 14.1 – 6, 27
Full Version from the NRSV Bible

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place 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, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

Revelation 21.1 – 7
Full Version from the NRSV Bible

The New Heaven and the New Earth

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

I Corinthians 13
Full Version from the NRSV Bible

The Gift of Love

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Psalm 23
Full Version from the NRSV Bible

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

Ecclesiastes 3.1 – 8
Full Version from the NRSV Bible

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Reflecting & remembering

In a time of reflection, music can be played, or silence may be kept. Prayers will be said too.

At this point it might be appropriate to lay flowers on the coffin, or express your sadness and loss in another way. Some families choose a cardboard coffin so that messages and pictures can be drawn on it. Perhaps a poem or a reading may be just right. Some popular readings are given just here – click a heading to read more.

Talk to your minister about any ideas you might have. Tell them all about the person you knew and loved and they can offer suggestions for special ways to make it personal.

In your order of service there may also be time for another hymn, if you’d like that. Talk to your minister about how much time you’ll have, especially if the funeral is taking place at a crematorium.


Saying goodbye

It will then be time for the farewell. The minister will pray, asking God to keep your loved one in his care, using words that have been used for centuries:

“…earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust: in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ”

This may be a very emotional moment. It may be possible to have some special music played at this point.

The minister will say a blessing and music may be played as the mourners leave the venue.


A moment with God

There’s so much to think about when organising a funeral, but God is with you and your church will help you through it.