Planning a Funeral

By the Rev Anne Le Bas

The death of someone close to you is always a difficult time. To add to the emotional stress there are also many arrangements that need to be made and paperwork to be completed. Arranging the funeral is part of this and I am very aware that it can be something which worries people immensely. I hope that these notes will help you to plan an appropriate “farewell” and answer any practical questions you might have. If there is anything else you would like to talk about, please don’t hesitate to ask.

I am very happy to conduct funerals either in Seal Church or at a crematorium or municipal cemetery. You don’t need to be a regular churchgoer to have a Christian funeral, and my aim will be to tailor the service so that it reflects your wishes. You can find out more about Church of England funerals here.


The first step in arranging a funeral will be to choose a funeral director. They will normally contact me directly, and I will then arrange to meet with you.


There are many people involved in the arrangements for a funeral service – the minister, funeral director and crematorium or gravedigger must all be available. The funeral directors will sort out these arrangements for you and you should keep in close contact with them as you plan.


Space is limited in the churchyard at Seal. Unless they are to be buried in an existing grave (for example with a spouse already buried here) we can therefore only bury people who have a legal entitlement to burial here. This is limited to those who live in the ecclesiastical (not the civil) parish of Seal at the time of their death and those who are on our electoral (church membership) roll at the time of their death.  I cannot make any exceptions to this rule.


I can inter ashes of those who lived outside the parish, however and will normally be happy to do so. There are more details available here about burial at Seal (also available as a leaflet in church).


I am very happy to arrange the service according to the wishes of the family as far as possible, but please wait until I have met you to make firm arrangements, as there may be limitations of which you are unaware. For example, the choir won’t be available on weekdays, and organists may not have a piece of music you want in their repertoire. There is a strict time limit for services at the crematorium of 35 minutes which we cannot exceed (The time slot is usually 45 minutes, but we need to allow time at the beginning and end to get the congregation in and out)


Burials (including those of ashes) can be marked with a stone, but there are rules concerning the type of memorial and how it is cared for which must be adhered to. These can be found in the church porch, or at this weblink. Please ask the priest for more details if you would like to discuss this. It is important that you understand these restrictions BEFORE the burial takes place.


Funerals vary immensely, but the pattern below is a common one which flows well.  


and opening prayers

(Hymn – hymns are optional but I have indicated the places where they might come if you choose to have some. Most people have two or three hymns, one at the beginning and one before the committal if there are two, and one somewhere in the middle if there are three.)

Brief tribute/s from family member/s

Psalm 23 -The Lord is my Shepherd or another Psalm to say together.

Bible Reading/ other readings




Prayers and the Lord’s Prayer


Final prayers and blessing


If you plan to have a service sheet printed please email or show it to me first, so that I can check it.


The service need not include hymns at all. In the crematorium there will only be time for two or three hymns. A church service can include more but need not do so.  There is no choir to lead the singing, so please bear that in mind when you choose hymns – it is better if they are well known.


I am normally happy to include recorded music, but check with me first that it will be suitable. For a service in church I will need CDs or MP3 files in advance so that I can check that they are compatible with our sound system. Please make absolutely clear which track is to be played. Recorded music can be played in place of hymns or in addition to them. There can be music at the beginning and end of the service or during it to provide time for reflection.At the crematorium recorded music is played by arrangement with the Crematorium staff. Please talk to the funeral director about the practicalities. They can play recorded accompaniment to hymns (which include a choir) if you don’t want the organist.


The funeral will contain at least one Bible reading. You can choose this, or I can choose it for you. If you would like help or advice, please ask. There are some suggestions here.

I am happy to include readings from other sources, but please check with me first that they are suitable and provide me with a copy of the reading so that I can incorporate it into what I say in the rest of the service.


I will lead the coffin in at the beginning of the service, whether it is in the church or the crematorium. The family and other mourners can follow the coffin if they wish, or be seated in the church already. At the church it is usual for the majority of the congregation to be seated inside before we begin.

At the end of the service I will leave first, and the funeral directors will then usher the immediate family out, followed by the rest of the guests.


Brief Tributes
I am very happy for family members and friends to take part in the service. They can read Bible readings (or other readings) or give a brief tribute or personal memory at the beginning of the service. Tributes should be kept short – a few thoughts are enough.

The main address
If you would like a family member to give the address I will normally be happy to agree. At the crematorium it is VERY important, however, that the address does not last more than about 5 minutes as there are strict time limits for services there – if an address runs over time I will have to cut out later parts of the service. The address can be longer in church, but most congregations do not listen well for more than 10 minutes.  If you are writing an address 1700 words is a sensible limit. I would appreciate it if the person giving the address could contact me in advance of the funeral so that I know what they plan to say. If a family member gives the address I will normally also add some thoughts and reflections of my own as well.

Reading or speaking at the funeral of a loved one is not always easy, even if you are used to public speaking. If family members are at all reluctant to take part in this way it is important that they should be able to say “no”. If someone agrees to speak or read and cannot do so at the last minute, they can indicate to me that they would rather not and I will fill in for them. If they have written out what they plan to say I will read it for them.


While I hope that these notes will help you to feel that you can take as much part as  you want to in planning a service that reflects your loved one who has died, please do not feel that you have to make lots of decisions about this. You can choose as much or as little of the service as you like – if you prefer to leave decisions to me, and for me to conduct the whole service that is quite in order (and quite common).


Loving Lord, help me to place (N.) into your hands, for you know and love him/her as your child. Be with me in the dark times of grief and walk beside me in the paths of sorrow.  Amen

Useful Links

Church of England Funerals

Burial and interment of ashes in Seal Churchyard

Diocese of Rochester rules for churchyards

St Peter and St Paul Church, Seal,
Church Street, Seal, Kent, TN15 0AR


Phone: 07510 522292  

Seal Church graphic