Church of England Funerals

Information on Church of England funerals and what to expect

Last updated: 29 November 2017

The Church of England is part of Anglicanism, a denomination of Christianity, the largest religion in the world.

The Church of England’s funeral service centres around a message of God’s love and Christian hope, that you and your loved one will be reunited after death in a place free from pain and suffering. Anglican funeral services may also emphasise the need for love and support within your community.

Planning a Church of England funeral

In an Anglican or Church of England funeral, the family may ask a member of the clergy to advise them on funeral arrangements. Despite this support, enlisting the assistance of a funeral director is strongly advised.

Anyone can ask a Church of England minister to preside over a funeral. The person who has died does not have to have been a member of the Anglican church and neither does the person arranging the funeral. A Church of England minister will take the funeral of anyone who lived within their local parish.

Church of England funeral traditions

A viewing service, where mourners come to view their loved one, can take place at the discretion of the family. Usually held at the funeral home, it can be held a day or a few days before the funeral and can be attended by a few family members and close friends, or any mourners wanting to pay their respects.

Organ and tissue donation, cremation and embalming are all acceptable practices in the Church of England and Anglicanism more widely.

Church of England funeral service

A Church of England funeral service can take place almost anywhere, including a church, cemetery, crematorium, or woodland burial site.

A Church of England service is generally structured to include hymns, prayers, a sermon and funeral readings. Typically a minister will preside over the service and lead mourners in prayer.

The funeral service may also include a eulogy or speech from friends and family members. The Church of England is open to personalising the funeral service to reflect the character of your loved one, whether that be through special music, readings or telling stories about their life.

A Church of England funeral service occasionally includes the taking of Holy Communion, where mourners are invited to the front of the church and accept a sip of wine and a piece of bread or communion wafer. This represents the body and blood of Jesus Christ and is an important ritual for Anglicans.

The casket is usually placed at the front of the service. It will usually remain shut throughout. If there is no casket, a memorial service can be held instead, where a photograph is often the focal point in place of the casket.

Church of England burial or cremation

A Church of England funeral service usually ends with the burial in a cemetery, the entombment of ashes in a mausoleum, or the committal of your loved one in a crematorium.

A vicar will usually lead a Church of England burial service, giving the proper rites and reciting prayers. In the case of cremation, the ashes may also be buried in a cemetery, entombed in a columbarium, or buried on the private land of a loved one.

After a Church of England funeral

The family and close friends may host a post-funeral reception, commonly known as a wake, at a church or at a family home. This may include refreshments and gives mourners the opportunity to talk and share memories of the person who has died.

Anglicans do not have any prescribed mourning periods or memorial events, although the Church of England does encourage the bereaved to light candles in remembrance or attend memorial services if they wish.

What to wear to a Church of England funeral

Funeral attire for Anglican or Church of England services is generally traditional formal clothing, usually black or dark colours, although in certain cases families may request otherwise.

If the family want people to wear bright colours instead of traditional black clothing, this will usually be communicated to mourners beforehand.

Church of England funeral etiquette

During Holy Communion it is acceptable to remain seated if you do not wish to participate; simply wait quietly and respectfully. Equally, many Church of England congregations will welcome non-members to celebrate Holy Communion with them, and this may be communicated to mourners by the vicar before beginning.

If you do not wish to join in Anglican funeral prayers during the service, this is also acceptable, as long as you maintain a respectful silence.

For more information on religious funerals, visit our religious funerals page.