Church of England funeral guide

Christianity is the most prolific religion in the UK. There are many facets of Christianity, with the main denominations being Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox, all with a common belief in the afterlife.

The English national Church is the Church of England. It’s part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the third-biggest Christian communion in the world.

Church of England funeral traditions

Church of England funerals are wide-ranging in form and can be tailored to be as unique as is desired in reflection of a life lived.

The location of the funeral is traditionally in a Church. Cemeteries, crematoriums, woodland burial sites and other outdoor locations are also popular.

You can choose to have a cremation or burial. Organ donation and embalming are both allowed by the Church of England.

Anglican funerals centre on God’s love and the hope that the deceased person will enter Heaven. It provides a time for family and friends to express their grief, give thanks for life and commend the soul of the departed into God’s keeping.

You do not need to be a member of the Church of England to have a Church of England funeral. If the person who has died was a churchgoer or their family are, the local vicar will be able to assist in the arrangement of the funeral. Otherwise, your chosen funeral director will be able to assist in arranging proceedings with the vicar of the local parish.

Before the funeral

On the day of the funeral service, family and friends will typically gather together at the deceased person’s house. A hearse will then transport the coffin to where the funeral is taking place, followed by those gathered.

There, they will be met by other mourners and the pallbearers (often friends or family of the deceased person) will carry the coffin inside.

The Church of England funeral service and etiquette

Church of England funeral services can take anywhere between 30 minutes to over an hour depending on the chosen order of service. Custom readings and music selected by the deceased person are common.

Mourners often send flowers or tributes to the funeral home before the service, or the deceased person may have specified a chosen charity to which donations can be made.

The traditional Church of England order of service (liturgy) is as follows:

  1. Gathering
  2. Sentences of Scripture are said
  3. Introduction and Opening Prayers
  4. Hymn (may be sung at this point, although they may be interspersed throughout the service)
  5. Readings
  6. Sermon (or address) by the minister
  7. Prayers
  8. The Lord’s Prayer
  9. Commendation and Farewell
  10. Committal
  11. Dismissal
  12. Blessing

There is also usually a eulogy; an address given by family or friends, commemorating the life of their loved one.

While you do not have to participate in hymns, prayers, or holy communion (if this is part of the service), it is welcomed. If you choose not to, it is acceptable to remain respectfully silent or seated where appropriate.

What to wear to a Church of England funeral

Unless requested otherwise by the family, Church of England funeral dress is usually formal wear in dark colours.

What happens after a Church of England funeral service

If the deceased person is to be buried, at the end of the service the coffin will be carried out of the Church to the graveside, where the rite of committal takes place.

If the deceased person is being cremated and the service takes place at a crematorium, following the committal, the coffin will be removed behind a curtain before the congregation is dismissed.

A reception usually follows the funeral, either at the house of a member of the family or a local hospitality venue.