Church of England funerals can take any number of formats, from brief and solemn to longer, larger and containing any number of hymns and prayers are requested by the family of the deceased (or as instructed by the deceased prior to his or her death). In general these funerals celebrate the life and personality of the deceased, but also take into account the circumstances of his or her death. Since these services can be personalised in a number of different ways, individuals organising a Church of England funeral should discuss their ideas with a member of the clergy as soon as possible.
The Funeral Service
Church of England funerals usually follow a general order of service including the gathering, readings and sermon, prayers, commendation and farewell, committal and dismissal. A funeral service may also take place within a celebration of Holy Communion, and when this is the case the Liturgy of the Sacrament will usually occur after prayers but before the commendation and farewell.
During the gathering the minister may meet the coffin at the door of the church. The minister will welcome everyone and introduce the service. Prayers of Penitence and The Collect may be said. Tributes may also be made at this point.
Readings and Sermons
One or more readings from the Bible will be said and may be followed by psalms or hymns. Following either the reading, prayers or hymns a sermon will be given.
The sequence of prayers at a Church of England funeral usually begins with thanksgiving for the life of the deceased, prayers for those who mourn, Prayers of Penitence (if they were not said at the gathering) and finally prayers for readiness to live in the light of eternity.
Commendation and Farewell
During the commendation and farewell the deceased is commended to God in an authorised manner.
The committal is perhaps the most solemn moment of a Church of England funeral service, and it may take place at the graveside, in a crematorium chapel or in the church before the body of the deceased is transported to the crematorium. During the committal either the coffin is lowered in to the grave or the coffin is moved out of site at the crematorium. If the committal takes place at the grave, then handfuls of earth will be scattered over the top of the coffin once it has been fully lowered. This can be a tremendously emotional time for the bereaved, and all care should be taken to ensure the solemnity of this time.
Generally a Church of England funeral ends with a blessing before the mourners leave.
Following the Funeral Service
What occurs following a funeral service is largely up to the family and friends of the deceased to decide. Many families choose to hold a type of reception in which all of the deceased’s loved ones can come together to support each other. Several weeks or months after the funeral the bereaved may find that they are still having trouble accepting their loved one’s death. These individuals may find great comfort in discussing their thoughts and feelings with a member of the clergy. On the anniversary of the deceased’s death many families choose to hold memorial services or another event to mark the anniversary. If a religious component is desired for such a gathering the family should speak to a member of the clergy about their wishes.