Attending a Church Funeral: FAQs

To a funeral for the first time. Especially if it is a church funeral, you may have all kinds of emotional and practical questions. Such as: should you sing along to church songs? Are you expected to participate in incomprehensible rituals? Are there any threats of blunders? And what if you don’t have a black suit or black dress? These are the ‘FAQs’ for attending a church funeral.

Should I sing along?

There are people who like to sing along at a ceremony, such as a church funeral. In many religions and spiritual movements, singing is a way to channel emotions, vent and feel involved in a group. One of the most common reasons for not wanting to sing along is that you can’t really feel the lyrics. A Christian text about the saving Lord can be very recognizable and empathetic for one person, and not part of the world of experience for another. You can do several things here. First of all, you simply can’t sing along. That certainly happens more often. As a second suggestion, you can also see if you can identify with the text in another way. Perhaps you experience something with words around a given, such as the emotion of letting go, or surrendering to something higher – whether that is the Lord mentioned for you, or Providence. It is often said that God is love; perhaps you can read the text that way, in the name of that love. Then you might want to sing along. Finally, for whatever reason, there are many people who actually mumble or mumble a little during church singing. Actually, that is a solution that seems to be chosen most often, whether you have doubts about your voice, the text or otherwise.

Should I bring anything, such as flowers?

The majority of people who attend a funeral or cremation and want to donate something have already had flowers delivered in advance or presented a gift at some other time. In principle, you do not need to bring anything with you during the ceremony. It can even be difficult because arrangements are made in advance, or because you have to accommodate the flowers or gift during the service while you want to have your hands free.

I don’t have a black suit/dress!

The etiquette surrounding clothing for a church farewell has been just as modernized as many other customs. Especially if it is a more liberal community, you are likely to find all kinds of things, including a pair of jeans here and there. That does not alter the fact that it is wise to dress up in muted shades. In any case, you can’t go wrong with opaque gray or dark blue. Even if it is in silence, a more casual dress such as jeans is not always appreciated; Erring on the side of caution is the best advice. Please note the dress code that may be stated in the invitation. You are not the first person who may be expected to wear white clothing at a (liberal) church funeral. The wishes of relatives as contained in the invitation take precedence over standard etiquette.

Do I have to participate in incomprehensible rituals?

Many of the instructions that visitors to a funeral need are in the booklet that you receive upon arrival or can take from a stack. In any case, a good tip is to arrive well in time. This also gives you the opportunity to read the text completely for yourself. A more traditional church funeral may contain something unclear here and there, but by going with the flow you can generally get by. Moreover, church funerals are now often highly modernized. Also because society shows a more versatile religious and spiritual palette, and secularization is taking place, people are increasingly taking all possible preferences into account. One of the popular forms of farewell in the modern Christian community, for example, is a mix of religious texts and personal contributions from relatives and visitors. Mixing favorite pop songs of the deceased, for example, alternated with gospels and/or church songs is also becoming increasingly common.

I’m afraid I’m making a blunder!

Fact of life: everyone makes blunders and mistakes. This trepidation can occur, especially in a church environment, if you are not used to it. One of the possible solutions is to do everything just a little later than others. If necessary, fiddle around in your bag or on your collar until you know what is expected. Furthermore, the text you receive is often relievingly clear: it states plainly whether you should sit or stand.

What to do during communal prayer?

They are there, those hussars who stare stubbornly into space when others bow their heads to the prayer to which they have been called. Cool, anyway. But why not take a moment to be still within yourself? Maybe you’re the type for a silent meditation. You may want to dedicate a silent thought to the deceased. Take a moment to relax. Do a discreet breathing exercise when you can use some rest. In short, plenty of options.

Short checklist for church funeral preparation

  • Cell phone out for service
  • Route planned and plenty of time reserved for the trip
  • Invitation studied on location, instructions about the character of the church service and clothing
  • Invitation in your pocket
  • Have a clean handkerchief with you
  • If woman: waterproof mascara
  • If you want to donate something: arrange and send it in time
  • Possibly look up specific religious practices (online)

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