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Here for everyone
From the moment you are in touch with us, throughout the funeral service, and for as long as you need us afterwards, we're here for you. The Church of England is in every community, and has been helping people mark the end of life for generations. Find out here what makes a Church of England-led funeral special.
If someone you know and love has recently died, or dies in the next few days, of whatever cause, there may still be a small funeral held at a church or a crematorium led by a Church of England minister.
The message at all Church of England funerals, wherever they happen, is one of hope. Although there is sadness because someone you know and love has died, in every Church of England funeral there will also be a message of hope in life after death. Read more about that hope.
“Hope is not just for the person who has died, it’s for the people who remain behind. It gives us something to hold on to. We are surrounded by creation with signs of things that die and come back to life, and that’s a wonderful metaphor of hope.”
The Rev Juliet Stephenson
Wherever you live, wherever the funeral takes places, whatever your link to the person who has died, the Church of England is available for you afterwards. Whether the funeral has happened recently or many years ago, discover here the different ways in which a local church is there for you.
A place to be: sometimes after a funeral all that is needed is a place to sit and think. All over the country churches are open all day, every day, and anyone can walk in and take a few moments in the peace and quiet. It might be in the middle of a busy High Street or at the end of a lane on a country walk, but wherever you are, it’s a place for you.
A place to pray: many churches have small chapels or spaces set aside for personal prayer. These often include a place to light a candle, or even write a short note to leave so others can also pray for you and your needs later that day or week. Simply lighting a candle is an act of prayer. Simply pause for a moment and hold your needs before God.
A place to talk: sometimes a funeral prompts big questions about life and death. The vicar or other minister in your local church is there to listen to your thoughts, and help you make sense of what has happened. There are usually contact details on a noticeboard or in a church newsletter. The Church of England has centuries of experience in thinking about life and death, so it’s a good place to take your questions.
Each person is unique – in personality and in life experience. A Church of England funeral allows you to give thanks for the unique person you knew and loved in a way that gives comfort and hope. Read on to find out how the funeral you are organising or going to will be special.
Burial or cremation
When your relatives talk to the Funeral Director to arrange your funeral, they will be asked to make a number of decisions. One of these will be whether you wanted to be buried or cremated. Which would you prefer? Discuss it with others if you’re not sure, and, when you do know, write it down.
Type of service
All advice given here guides you through the choices you can make for a Church of England funeral, but the Funeral Director will ask the family whether there are any special wishes for the funeral to be humanist, civil or religious. Remember you don’t have to be a churchgoer or consider yourself religious in order to have a Church of England funeral. It is available to everyone. Think this through with family and friends and then add your preference to your notes.
There are four possible locations for a Church of England funeral:
· A green or woodland burial site
· A crematorium
· A cemetery
· A church
A church minister can take the whole funeral service at any one of these places , or, each location can be combined with a service in a church followed by prayers at the location. Explore more about this our Funeral locations section.
A Church of England funeral can include traditional or unusual choices of coffin. From wooden to wicker or painted coffins, they are all fine for a Church of England funeral. Some people have even chosen a cardboard coffin so that family and friends can write things on it during the funeral service. Make a note of your preference.
The way your coffin is taken to the funeral venue is also important. Think about the cost and convenience for your family too, and note your preference.
During the service, there are various points where it may be appropriate to have music played, sung or listened to. This can include hymns and also songs or pieces of non-church music that mean something to you and your family. Some ideas for popular funeral hymns are given in our step-by-step guide to the funeral service. Whether you choose one of those or whether you have your own ideas, write your choices down in your notes.
Celebrants and involving family and friends
Your local vicar or another minister can take your funeral service. If you have a preference, make a note. Remember this can be reviewed as time goes on.
Family and friends can be involved too, if they feel able to. There could be special people in your life who you know would like to do a speech or eulogy at your funeral, or do the readings. Talk this through with them to check how they’d feel about it.
Once you have compiled your notes, read ‘Who to tell and where to file’ for your next steps.
Monuments and memorials
If your body or ashes are to be buried in a cemetery or churchyard, your family will have some decisions to make about the headstone or ledger stone which is made to mark your grave. There are several choices to consider, such as the size, style, material used and colour, and then of course the inscription. It is really important to know that it’s likely there will be strict restrictions on all of these decisions depending on where the cemetery or churchyard is. And local councils or regional church authorities across different areas of the country may differ in their policies. The best thing to do is talk to the vicar in the parish where you would like your body or ashes to be buried, and listen to their advice about what is permitted. This will help you think through your ideas.
Church of England
Sadness, grief and being there
COVID-19 Update from the Church of England 18/03/20 to date
If someone you love dies in the next few days, of whatever cause, it will still be possible to have a small funeral held at a church or a crematorium led by a Church of England minister.
What happens at a funeral
During a funeral there are five things that happen:
- You give thanks for all that the person meant to you
- You find hope for tomorrow, drawing strength from the presence of friends and from God
- The person is commended into God’s care
- The body is committed to be buried or cremated.
- You say your last farewell to a person’s physical body.
If you are unable to go to a funeral which is still happening with others attending
· If the funeral is live-streamed then you could watch online.
· Why not take a few moments to think, write, or draw some of your memories of the person? Later you may be able to share that with others at a special memorial service.
· You can still pray at home – see here for some ideas.
· You could also read a poem or look at Psalm 23, which is read at every church funeral.
· You could write a card to others who are missing the person you are grieving.
· Remember that when this crisis is over [and it will pass] there will always be services for remembering organised by the church and anyone can go to these services.
· It may also be possible for the local church to help you organise a formal or informal service to remember afterwards. If you were unable to say goodbye
· This is particularly hard, and the best thing to do is to talk to someone about your feelings. Many of the things above will also help, and there are prayers that might help here.
· Again, lighting a candle online might help, and if you can go out, then pop into an open church to pray and think.
Holding important conversations
This might be a moment when you begin to think about funerals and about death. It could be a time to think about what you would want at a funeral, so do take time to talk about these issues with your own family and friends. There are ways to do this which you can find here.
And, if appropriate, make a note of your thoughts and ideas – even if there is no funeral service at the moment, you will be able to use these ideas to shape a special service in the future to give thanks for your special person.
A prayer for when you can’t go to a funeral
Thank you for xxxx, for all that they meant to me and others.
I so wanted to say goodbye, to be alongside my friends and family.
Help me to know you are there,
Holding all my hopes,
Holding all those I Love, especially xxxx,
And holding me this day.
Be close this day with your peace and hope.
Life is so strange just now – I don’t know what to do.
Comfort me with your presence,
Be with all who grieve
And give us strength and courage to face this and all the days ahead.
Not being present when someone dies, and not being able to be at a funeral can have a big impact on grief and bereavement. Grief is a long and painful journey, and you may need additional support. There are lots of good websites and some information here.
Church of England