Christianity is one of the largest religions followed by many countries around the globe. Christianity is based on the lessons of Jesus Christ and centered on the relationship Christians have with God. The religion is divided into many sub-regions, the main three of which are Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. Each group follows its own set of customs including Christian funerals rites.
Christian funeral traditions
There are many different sub-groups of Christianity, each of them following different sets of funeral customs and etiquette. However, there are some Christian funeral rituals that are common among most denominations. Here are some of them mentioned for better understanding.
Several subgroups of Christianity hold a wake ceremony after someone parts. This custom takes place before the funeral and usually is held at a church, a funeral home, or at the family’s home. This custom has fewer formalities than the main funeral ceremony, the sole aim of this ritual is to give friends and family a chance to talk and support one another. They serve food in this ceremony. Prayers, readings, and eulogies are also a part of this ritual.
Viewing or Visitation
A viewing or visitation ritual is specifically held to give family and friends a chance to visit the earthly body of the parted soul. This ritual is customary in many denominations. While a wake always takes place before the funeral, the visitation can be held after the ceremony, before burial, or before cremation.
Christian funerals usually take place in a church. While the exact order and features of the service vary depending on denomination, a Christian service generally includes the following elements:
The Earthly body of the parted soul is present at the ceremony, in a casket. If the person has already been cremated, then the urn of ashes is present instead. Usually, the casket or urn is carried into the church at the start of the ceremony though some people also place it at the altar after the ceremony begins.
2. Opening statement:
The pastor delivers an opening statement to welcome attendees, offers supporting and soothing words for the family, and leads a prayer to start the ceremony.
3. Prayers, sermons, and hymns:
Throughout the ceremony, many prayers, hymns, and speeches are led by the pastor and dears and nears of the deceased. The attendees are often encouraged to sing prayers along with the hymns.
4. Readings and speeches:
All dears and nears of the bereaved may share readings and speeches during this ceremony. For example, they might read a eulogy or say a few words in honor of their lost loved one.
5. Closing words:
At the end of the ceremony, the pastor shares a benediction, again offering some words of comfort for the deceased’s family, or sometimes they also say some words as a reminder about the importance of Christianity and living our lives to serve God.
6. Burial or cremation:
A burial or cremation ceremony follows the funeral program, usually on the same day. The pastor leads the burial or cremation by addressing the attendees as they gather to watch the casket being lowered into the ground or sent for cremation.
Christian funeral etiquette
There are certain standard practices and etiquette that must be followed around a Christian funeral. If you’re attending a Christian funeral, it’s good to know what to expect. It can be helpful to know about etiquette when planning a Christian funeral for someone by yourself.
What to carry to a Christian funeral?
Guests don’t need to bring anything to the ceremony, but people often arrange flowers to be sent to the funeral in advance. Also, you can send a card to the family to express your sympathies. As it’s an emotional event, you can also bring along tissues or a handkerchief.
What do you do at a Christian funeral?
Christian funerals are generally very formal and somber. The attendees are expected to remain quiet during the ceremony, except during prayers or hymns. However, the wake custom is less formal and gives an opportunity to talk and comfort each other.
What is the dress code for Christian funerals?
Christian funeral etiquette says that attendees should wear dark colors like black, navy, or brown. During church ceremonies, people should wear modest dresses that cover shoulders and knees as a sign of respect.
How long does a Christian funeral last?
The Christian funeral’s church part lasts around 30 minutes to 1 hour. Immediately followed by the burial or cremation. Usually, after the burial or cremation, there is a reception where guests share food and drink together. As a result, some Christian funerals can be a day-long event.
Christian burial customs
If burial is chosen as an option, it’s customary for friends and family to gather around the gravesite at the crematorium for a burial ceremony. The pastor leads the ceremony, reading prayers and often Bible verses as well. In many denominations, it’s customary for family members to step forward and throw a handful of sand onto the casket once it has been lowered into the ground. The pastor will end the ceremony with the words, “We, therefore, commit the body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life.”
Does Christianity approve of cremation?
Nowadays, many people chose cremation over burial, for many reasons. Cremation is acceptable in most sub-groups of Christianity. These denominations state that there is nothing in the Bible to reprove cremation. Thus, the decision between burial and cremation is a completely personal choice.
Though cremation is permitted in Christianity, burial is still a more traditional method. Some sub-groups, for example, Presbyterians and Catholicism don’t support cremation. It urges people to choose burial over cremation.
If you’d like to plan a traditional Christian funeral, speak to the pastor at your chosen church or to a funeral home to start making arrangements, or simply just contact a funeral service provider to help you through the last rites.