Funerals: evangelical church ceremonies


Funeral guidance for Church of England services is easy to find but what if you, or you loved one, prefers an independent evangelical church funeral.

Funerals in Evangelical churches are dignified occasions, but there is also a sense of joy because the congregation believes that if the person who has died trusted Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour, they are in heaven for eternity.

The service is an occasion of thanksgiving for the life of the person, and the funeral is often called a 'thanksgiving service.'

Members of the Independent Evangelical Church have the right to burial on Church of England land in places where there is no municipal cemetery.

The vast majority of Evangelical funerals are those of people with direct connections with the church. However, there could be a link through family members or via other contacts.

A funeral service for someone who was not known to be a believer will reflect that uncertainty.

Approved/typical venues

Not all Evangelical congregations have their own church, but the church has its own building, funeral services will be held there. If the deceased belonged to a church which did not have its own building (but hired a local school, for instance, for its Sunday services) funeral services will probably be held at another local church building.

To find your nearest church, visit the church’s website.

Length of funeral and other 'rules'

There are no 'rules' as to the length of service - some are longer than others. They are likely to be longer if the burial or cremation has taken place first, as there is then no pressure on time (for example, to arrive at the crematorium for a timed cremation).

Or there can be a longer service before the committal. Family, pastor and friends should discuss the most appropriate way of organising a suitable thanksgiving for the life. While black clothes are still the most common at Evangelical funerals, other appropriate colours are acceptable.

The funeral director will advise based on his or her experience of the community.

Things to discuss with your pastor

  • Who will be the pallbearers?
  • Who will do the readings?
  • Are there any special readings you want?
  • Are there special prayers you would like included?
  • Are there special songs/hymns or music that you would like to suggest?
  • How much are the church fees?
  • Are there other fees, for example for the organist?
  • Should you bring young children?
  • What about a headstone to mark the grave?
  • Are there rules about what memorials you can choose?

Order of service

Traditionally, the coffin is brought in at the beginning of the service, with the family following behind it. The family sits at the front of the church. However, some families prefer to take their seats first and then the coffin is brought in.

The coffin will be brought out at the end of the service by the undertakers. The family will follow, and then go to the cemetery or cremation for committal.

The committal

At the committal the pastor generally stands at the head end of the grave, and the people gather round the grave.

The family needs to decide whether they wish to have earth thrown on the coffin at the words of committal or not. The committal is usually a short service.

Secular music, readings and other features

The content of a funeral service, even if it includes poems and other original material, will generally not be secular, but will have Christian themes.

If you are planning an Evangelical funeral, create a playlist of the music and readings you want.

Should we have a gathering afterwards?

Yes - these are usually at the church where the service is held, the church hall or the family home. If appropriate, a local hotel or similar venue. The reception will be respectful and a time when family and friends recall the religious qualities of the deceased, in a positive rather than grieving way.

Memorial services

In a few cases, where the deceased was well-known, there might be a memorial service a few weeks later, but in most cases the funeral service is the only service.

Plan in advance

If you want an Evangelical funeral, or will need to organise the funeral of an ailing loved one, plan in advance as this saves a lot of time and stress. Make sure the Funeral Wishes are noted and kept by the executor or close family members.

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