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What Happens at Christian Funerals?

Although Christian scripture doesn’t strictly establish funeral customs, scholars throughout history have tried to standardise the process by following Biblical accounts.

Throughout the roughly 2,000 years of Christian history, traditions have come and gone with different sects and cultures. But nowadays, what happens at Christian funerals? Read on to find out.

What Are Church Funerals?

Christian funerals are largely held in a church and are conducted by the minister or priest. However, ministers can also preside over funerals at the graveside or the crematorium. 

During the process, a local minister leads the service, acting as a point of contact for the family and the church. 

Order of Service

According to the Anglican tradition, the order of service is called liturgy. Usually, some denominations adopt the same order, adding a speech from a close relative or the minister in charge.

However, Catholic proceedings differ slightly, as a remembrance speech may be held. Furthermore, Catholics hold a mass where the Holy Communion is served, but the mass is optional. 

In the Church of England and other denominations, the Holy Communion is not mandatory but may be included. 

At the end of the ceremony, the coffin is lowered, and the minister says some words (the committal). After this, friends and well-wishers may light a candle in remembrance. Optionally, this may be followed by a reception.

Also read about Different Types of Coffin Explained

What Is Involved in a Church Funeral?

Across most denominations, the hymn is a major part of the service. These may be the deceased’s favourites or funeral-appropriate hymns. Other than the hymn, here are some important aspects:

Gathering: Typically, the coffin goes into the church. The priest opens the service as the coffin goes in and then reads a portion of the Bible. After that, everyone in attendance settles in the church before the pallbearers bring the coffin. 

Bible readings: The verses are often selected to offer comfort and consolation to the mourning family and friends.

Eulogy: Sometimes, the minister speaks on behalf of the family. Then, friends, family members, and well-wishers read a written piece about the deceased.

Prayers: A silent or sober moment when prayers are said on behalf of the deceased and their family. These prayers often focus on thanksgiving.

Commendation: A moment before the final procession, the minister may say, ‘Let us, therefore, commend [name of deceased or family name] to the mercies of God.’ Then, he leads the procession out. 

Committal: The committal takes place at the graveside. It’s usually a small gathering of close friends and family members. It may also be done when the curtains close at a crematorium. This is a relatively short event—about 15 to 20 minutes long.


Although funeral activities may differ across the world, there are similarities. It’s also customary for Christians to celebrate death anniversaries and remember their dead on important holidays.