Guidelines for Preparing Funeral Services
If you are reading this page because you have recently lost a loved one, we are so sorry. Please accept our sympathies. We hope that there is some way we may be able to assist you at this time.
Jesus says in the Gospel of John:
'Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'
Our hope for you at this time is that through Jesus you will indeed be comforted and your hearts will not be troubled.
What follows are some guidelines which may assist as you think about funeral arrangements. The Cathedral's policy on funerals may be downloaded here.
Every funeral service or memorial service is an important occasion. The service provides the opportunity for people to express their grief and to extend sympathy to the bereaved, to honour the person who has died and to proclaim the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The various elements of the gathering need to be given careful thought and detailed planning.
Using the framework of the Funeral Service in the Prayer Book (The Book of Common Prayer or An Australian Prayer Book) there is a great deal of flexibility and scope for shaping the occasion around the desires of the family and friends involved.
At the same time there are guidelines as to what we are able to provide and achieve within the confines of the church service. It may be possible and appropriate to give opportunities for other activities beyond this service. These guidelines arise out of the experiences of a number of previous occasions at the Cathedral.
Many people will have their favourite hymns or that they may have already suggested for their funeral. We usually sing two hymns at a funeral.
Here are some well-loved hymns:
The Lord's My Shepherd
Abide with Me
For All the Saints
Nearer My God to Thee
Rock of Ages
How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds
In Christ Alone
My Hope is Built
Again, this may already have been worked out ahead of time. We suggest two readings. Here are some appropriate passages:
I Corinthians 15:50-58
A number of prayers are printed in the order of service. These may be read by friends or family.
The giving of a tribute or eulogy has been traditional at funerals. In recent years, the number of people wanting to speak has grown. We are not able to give everyone involved opportunities to speak at length.
Through past experience, we have found that we need to limit the tributes in the Cathedral funeral service.
One way forward is for people to be invited to write out what they would like to share with a view to that being recorded in some way, possibly in the order of service.
There may be another occasion later in the day when many more people may be able to share with one another in public tributes.
Our guideline for the funeral service is that the tribute time be limited to 10 minutes (1000 words). This may involve one or two people. It is our hope that each tribute could be provided the day before the funeral in order to be placed on the Cathedral website.
Those who have been asked to pray or read the bible are asked to focus on their task and resist any temptation to add their personal reflections to the prepared tribute(s).
One of the central features of the funeral service is the proclamation of the Word of God. This is the time to declare the mind of God: in the midst of our sadness, to bring comfort and support; in the midst of loss and uncertainty, to declare the forgiveness of sins and the hope of resurrection life; and in the face of despair and doubt, to bring the challenge of the gospel to the unbeliever.
It is important that we do not fill the service with so many other elements that attention is taken away from the preaching.
In keeping with the usual practice in all our Cathedral gatherings, the invitation to preach should come from the Dean.
We hope that these guidelines have helped you in your preparation. Please feel free to contact us at your convenience to make any arrangements.
St Andrew's Cathedral Ministry Team
Phone: (02) 9265 1661