Stripped Down Liturgy – Funeral

I got into a conversation this week about which bits of the Church of England liturgy were “essential” for a service. Although we all have different views of what makes a good service, it’s really interesting to look at the formal liturgy to see what is mandatory and what is not.

So in response to this question, I present “Stripped Down Liturgy”, a series of posts displaying the elements of a service that are mandatory and only those elements. These liturgies are, according to the rubrics, the “essential” components of a service. Everything else is optional.

We begin with Common Worship Funeral.

The Funeral Service

The Gathering

Introduction

FuneralThe minister says

We meet in the name of Jesus Christ,
who died and was raised to the glory of God the Father.
Grace and mercy be with you.

The minister introduces the service in these or other suitable words

We have come here today
to remember before God our brother/sister N ;
to give thanks for his/her life;
to commend him/her to God our merciful redeemer and judge;
to commit his/her body to be buried/cremated,
and to comfort one another in our grief.

The Collect

The minister invites the people to pray, silence is kept and the minister says this or another suitable Collect (see here)

Merciful Father,
hear our prayers and comfort us;
renew our trust in your Son,
whom you raised from the dead;
strengthen our faith
that all who have died in the love of Christ
will share in his resurrection;
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
All
Amen.

Readings and Sermon

This or another psalm or hymn is used (see Note 2 here)

1
The Lord is my shepherd; •
therefore can I lack nothing.

2
He makes me lie down in green pastures •
and leads me beside still waters.

3
He shall refresh my soul •
and guide me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; •
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5
You spread a table before me
in the presence of those who trouble me; •
you have anointed my head with oil
and my cup shall be full.

6
Surely goodness and loving mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life, •
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Psalm 23

A reading from the New Testament (which may be a Gospel reading) is used.

A sermon is preached.

Prayers

A minister leads the prayers of the people.

The prayers usually follow this sequence:

¶ Thanksgiving for the life of the departed

¶ Prayer for those who mourn

¶ Prayers of Penitence (if not already used)

¶ Prayer for readiness to live in the light of eternity

Commendation and Farewell

The minister stands by the coffin and may invite others to gather around it.

The minister says

Let us commend N to the mercy of God,
our maker and redeemer.

Silence is kept.

The minister uses this or another prayer of entrusting and commending (see here)

God our creator and redeemer,
by your power Christ conquered death
and entered into glory.
Confident of his victory
and claiming his promises,
we entrust N to your mercy
in the name of Jesus our Lord,
who died and is alive
and reigns with you,
now and for ever.
All
Amen.

If the Committal does not follow as part of the same service in the same place, some sections of the Dismissal may be used here.

The Committal

Sentences of Scripture may be used.

The minister says

either

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy,
slow to anger and of great goodness.
As a father is tender towards his children,
so is the Lord tender to those that fear him.
For he knows of what we are made;
he remembers that we are but dust.
Our days are like the grass;
we flourish like a flower of the field;
when the wind goes over it, it is gone
and its place will know it no more.
But the merciful goodness of the Lord endures
for ever and ever toward those that fear him
and his righteousness upon their children’s children.

(or)

We have but a short time to live.
Like a flower we blossom and then wither;
like a shadow we flee and never stay.
In the midst of life we are in death;
to whom can we turn for help,
but to you, Lord, who are justly angered by our sins?
Yet, Lord God most holy, Lord most mighty,
O holy and most merciful Saviour,
deliver us from the bitter pain of eternal death.
Lord, you know the secrets of our hearts;
hear our prayer, O God most mighty;
spare us, most worthy judge eternal;
at our last hour let us not fall from you,
O holy and merciful Saviour.

The minister uses one of the following forms of Committal.

At the burial of a body

We have entrusted our brother/sister N to God’s mercy,
and we now commit his/her body to the ground:
earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust:
in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who will transform our frail bodies
that they may be conformed to his glorious body,
who died, was buried, and rose again for us.
To him be glory for ever.
All
Amen.

(or)

in a crematorium, if the Committal is to follow at the Burial of the Ashes

We have entrusted our brother/sister N to God’s mercy,
and now, in preparation for burial,
we give his/her body to be cremated.
We look for the fullness of the resurrection
when Christ shall gather all his saints
to reign with him in glory for ever.
All
Amen.

(or)

in a crematorium, if the Committal is to take place then

We have entrusted our brother/sister N to God’s mercy,
and we now commit his/her body to be cremated:
earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust:
in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who will transform our frail bodies
that they may be conformed to his glorious body,
who died, was buried, and rose again for us.
To him be glory for ever.
All
Amen.

In summary, the “essential” parts of a funeral are:

  1. Introduction
  2. Collect
  3. Psalm
  4. New Testament Reading
  5. Sermon
  6. Prayers
  7. Commendation
  8. Committal

Everything else is optional and not vital for a correct funeral.

Discuss!

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  • Richard Huss

    Interestingly, the “Outline Order for Funerals” (CW Pastoral Services, page 257) is also an authorised C of E service – see the normally-rather-dull details on page 403. The Outline Order and the full Funeral Service, pages 258-273, are authorised separately, the former providing something rather akin to “A Service of the Word”.

    If you follow the Outline Order for Funerals rather than the Funeral Service, the mandatory items reduce to:

    * Welcoming the people and introducing the service
    * One or more Bible readings
    * A sermon
    * Prayers
    * Commendation, using authorized words
    * Committal, using authorized words

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