Christian Funeral Rites
Any resident of England will technically live in a parish and can, therefore, be entitled to a Church of England funeral. Regardless of whether they have attended any services in their life or if they were a member of the church. Even an atheist is entitled to be buried by a member of the church as long as they reside in England. A Christian funeral can take place in a chapel or a church, but this is not absolutely compulsory, Christian ministers may preside over funerals held at crematoriums, natural woodland burials sites or at the gravesite in secular cemeteries – as long as there is a minister in attendance the burial or cremation site is considered a holy place.
Whether the funeral takes place at a church, crematorium or other places, the minister will meet the coffin and pallbearers at the door and greet them welcome. The minister will then lead the procession into the building or area while reciting from the bible.
Unlike the other Abrahamic faiths, whose funeral services tend to be generally impersonal, christian-funeral can be highly personalised. There will be an opening statement led by the priest; this could be a prayer, a statement to show support to the bereaved or a mixture of both. Loved ones and even the minister can be invited to read eulogies, personal stories, poetry, and prose, sing or play secular songs alongside the traditional hymns, prayers, sermons and readings from the bible that the faith requires, with guests being encouraged to read or sing along at appropriate times. If you aren’t comfortable in doing this, it is acceptable for you to be standing and silent in respect for the service, the departed and the faith itself. The individual elements of a funeral service are very important to Anglicans and therefore if a funeral is being arranged through the Church of England faith, then someone from the church will go to the loved ones beforehand and discuss the deceased, who they were, what they were like and how they would like them to be commemorated.
If the deceased were not a Christian, the funeral would still be able to go ahead if they are residents of the United Kingdom. However, as a tradition, the minister may recite a prayer for the unlearned: ‘ God of infinite mercy and justice, who has made man in thine own image, and hatest nothing thou hast made, we rejoice in thy love and commend all mankind to thee, that in them thy will be done.’
Practising Christians may also request to have the ritual of Holy Communion included in the service of their loved ones, or their own if they are pre-planning their funeral. However, this is not usual practice or commanded by doctrine. Church of England funeral services does not demand participation by Non-Christians. They need not participate during prayers, hymns or Holy Communion and it is perfectly acceptable for them to sit quietly and respectfully while these spiritual rituals take place.
However, the Church of England and a lot of other Anglican churches do not prohibit nonChristians from joining in and may even encourage this as a mark of respect to the departed.
What does a Christian burial involve? Although burial is the most traditional practice in Christianity, most Anglicans support cremation. If the deceased is cremated and is a practising Christian, then it is normal and actually crucial for the ashes of the deceased to be kept together rather than scattered, interred at home or if buried then in a columbarium. This is due to the Christian belief in the bodily resurrection at Judgement Day.
If a burial or burial of the ashes of a Christian is taking place, the minister will perform a committal ceremony as the remains of the deceased are then lowered into the grave at the burial site. At this time prayers, that centre on the immortal soul and the afterlife will be read. The minister will then conclude the committal by praying for the deceased’s soul and reciting the omnipresent ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ After the ceremony is completed, mourners can light candles as a sign of respect for and remembrance of the dead. There usually is no official mourning period for the Christian faith; however, the family, friends and loved ones of the deceased may return to the church periodically to pray for their loved one, light more candles and remember them.
Regarding Orthodox Christians, they do not consider death as an ending instead of that it is the beginning of going to be with God. However, the feeling of bereftness and sorrow at being separated from a loved one is a human emotion that everyone feels. The first traditional mourning period of Orthodox Christianity lasts for 40 days, in which certain days have significant meaning. With the third day being the day the funeral is usually held on, the ninth day and the fortieth day. Of these, the fortieth day is the most significant as this is the day that is the day that it is believed that the soul undergoes Judgement determining where the soul remains. After this for seven years in a row, memorials are taking place at three months, six months, nine months and a year.
Christian funeral ceremonies are usually followed by a wake/reception. These are incredibly personal and depend on the personalities and passions of the deceased and their loved ones. It is a general tradition to bring gifts of flowers and food to these.
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