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"What exactly does a Christian funeral service entail?"

A Christian is a person who believes in God and, the after-life – a spiritual life unconnected physically to this Earth that we live on.

Without separating the slightly different beliefs of denominations be they Roman Catholic or Jehovah Witnesses, the fundamental belief is the same: Christians believe that when they or someone dies, they are brought before God for judgement. The righteous will go to Heaven and the sinners will go to Hell.

(To define Hell in the past would be 'fire and brimstone' – eternal damnation in a fiery place. Simply put, Christians believe that the separation from their God or the love of their God is, or will be, Hell!)

(2 Thessalonians 1:9-10 - is quite explicit.)

When a Christian dies, it is seen as the end of his/her life on earth. A funeral is held for friends and family to grieve for the person who has died and give thanks for their life.

The deceased may have left information in his/her will stating whether they want to be buried or cremated and what they want to be included in the funeral service - hymns, prayers and religious readings etc.

The funeral is usually held between one and two weeks following a death. It can either take place in a church or at a crematorium. It usually takes this form:

  • The Gathering: the priest will open the service with a reading from the scriptures. This will normally affirm the belief in God, eternal life in His presence and assume a 'righteous' outcome for the deceased.
  • Words of welcome: A short verbal welcome to those in attendance will be followed by a hymn often related to a psalm.
  • Various prayers and readings from the Bible are interspersed with testimonies and personal tributes – family members or friends are usually involved in this process
  • Further prayers of thanksgiving and penitence follow with mourners participation in readiness for the most important part of the service – the Committal.
  • A second hymn is sung prior to the Committal
  • *The Committal - music can be played at this point but silence is often observed followed by a commendation of the deceased into God's mercy culminating in the familiar words, "Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust."
  • The priest, or minister, will close the service by blessing those mourners in attendance and finally say the words of The Grace.
  • Domestic notices regarding catering arrangements or charitable donations can be announced - timing is at the priest's discretion.
*If a burial is taking place, the coffin is usually carried to the graveside where the Committal will take place. The coffin will be lowered into the grave at this point.
If cremation is to take place, at the crematorium, different actions occur dependant upon practical factors; mostly, a curtain comes round and encompasses the coffin with an overhead light dimming in synchronisation.

Three methods of Christian funeral services are usual:

  • Religious service in church followed by The Committal at the crematorium
  • Religious service in church followed by The Committal at the graveside in a churchyard (or churchyard annexe) or, municipal cemetery, or natural burial site
  • Religious service in the crematorium chapel including The Committal and final blessings

In some areas of the United Kingdom, funeral practices dictate that the Christian service is completed in the church/place of worship and the deceased is taken to the crematorium without accompanying family and friends for the cremation.

As indicated above, differences are present within the 'church' regarding this final process. Christians obviously believe in the equality of Jesus and The Holy Spirit, the Trinity. Jehovah (the official name allocated to God), Witnesses, believe that Jesus existed but do not recognise the significance or equality of, the 'Trinity.'

Roman Catholics, recognise and acknowledge the importance of Mary the Virgin but also, Purgatory. This is a place for those who have died in a 'state of grace' (that is, they have committed 'venial' or forgivable sins), and may not go straight to Heaven.

Other examples and variations are not covered in this article, the purpose of which is to give insight to a Christian Funeral Service.

  At Exmouth & District Funeral Services, we realise that this is an unusual and difficult time for you. As such, your contact with us is a personal and professional priority. Our primary goal is to be available to you and perform the professional and caring service needed, in order to reduce the burden to you and your family.  
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