Christian funerals are the most common type of religious funeral in Australia. This isn’t surprising given that Christianity is the most popular religion in Australia, with 52.1% of the population identifying as Christian in the 2016 Census.
This guide is designed to give you the additional details you need when planning a Christian funeral. It covers the following topics:
- Core Beliefs of Christians
- Christian Denominations
- Christian Beliefs Regarding Cremation
- The Wake
- The Order of Christian Funerals
- Choosing a Minister
- Locations for Christian Funerals
- How to Find Christian Funeral Directors
For more general information about planning a funeral service, see our Guide to Planning a Funeral Service.
1. Core Beliefs of Christians
Christianity is one of the Abrahamic religions based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, the son of God. Christians believe that Jesus suffered on the cross, died, descended into hell and rose again from the dead so that we could be forgiven for our sins. His act of sacrifice makes it possible for those who believe in him and follow his word to be delivered unto Heaven, to live in eternal and everlasting peace with God.
Another core tenet of Christianity is the Day of Judgment, a day in the future when all people will be judged by God. According to numerous references in the New Testament, Christ’s return from Heaven will be announced by a trumpet call where all who have ever lived will be raised up from the dead. Those who are good will be sent to everlasting bliss, and those who reject Christ will be sent to everlasting condemnation.
2. Christian Denominations
There are numerous Christian denominations, each with different funeral traditions, including:
- Eastern Orthodox
- Seventh-day Adventist
3. Christian Beliefs Regarding Cremation
Until more recent times, Christians generally rejected cremation and exclusively practised burial. The core reason for the rejection of cremation derives from passages in the Bible which describe that on the Day of Judgment those who have died will be raised up from the dead and reunited with their spirits. Accordingly, if a person’s body was cremated there would be no body left to reunite with their soul.
While Eastern Orthodox Christians still forbid cremation, most other denominations have deemed it acceptable even though it is not the preferred practice. This is reflected by the fact that today, cremations are more common than burials and account for approximately 70% of funerals in metropolitan cities in Australia.
For a complete discussion on the subject, see our article on the issues you need to consider when deciding between cremation and burial.
4. The Wake
While the specifics of Christian funerals differ between denominations, almost all funerals of devout Christians can be expected to include a wake (also known as a viewing).
The wake normally takes place 1-3 days before the funeral service and can be set up at the funeral home chapel, the family home, or church. It can be with an open or closed casket, with invites sent to a wide group of people who knew the deceased or restricted to only close friends and family.
The wake is often attended by a minister who will conclude the wake by leading the group in prayer.
5. The Order of Christian Funeral Services
Christian funerals typically follow the style and structure of a traditional funeral service. Many of the elements focus on the belief that death is not the end of the journey which continues in Heaven.
The order of a Christian funeral service might include the following:
- An opening address by the priest, clergy or minister. Depending on the person’s denomination, the address might include particular prayers and words showing support to the person’s family.
- Hymns and prayers are sung and read through the Christian funeral service, with guests often encouraged to participate at relevant times.
- Several scripture readings by those close to the deceased. Again, depending on the person’s denomination and the message the family wants to convey about the person’s life, readings and their order in the service may differ.
- A eulogy or funeral speech delivered by a family member of close friend.
- A minute of silence for the congregation to reflect on the life of the deceased.
- The priest, minister or clergy will close the funeral service with a commendation and farewell. If the funeral is a “dual service funeral” which continues on to the grave, the minister will then lead the funeral procession to the cemetery for the committal.
If the funeral concludes at the graveside or crematorium, a committal ceremony will take place. At the committal, the attendees of the funeral gather around the grave with the coffin partially lowered. The minister will lead the group through a number of prayers and scriptures, and finally, will speak the words of committal as the coffin is fully lowered into the grave. At the crematorium, the curtains will be drawn around the coffin.
Depending on your minister and denomination, the prayer of committal may take different forms, but it is usually along the following lines:
“We therefore commit (his or her) 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.”
6. Choosing a Minister
If your loved one was a member of a church, then it is a simple matter of asking your pastor or minister to officiate the service. Depending on your relationship with the minister you could either do this directly, or alternatively, notify your funeral director who will be able to contact the minister on your behalf.
If the deceased was not a member of a church but still wants a Christian funeral (which is not unusual), the easiest course is to ask your funeral director for minister recommendations. It’s important that you meet with and are happy with your chosen minister as they will play a significant and very visible part in the funeral service.
7. Locations for Christian Funerals
Christian funerals will typically be held in the church at which your loved one was a member. If the they did not attend church regularly but still want a Christian funeral at a church, this can usually be arranged but depends on the church and the permission of the relevant pastor or minister in charge.
Christian funerals can also be held in a funeral home, cemetery or crematorium chapel.
8. How to Find Christian Funeral Directors
Given that the majority of funerals in Australia are Christian funerals, almost all funeral directors will be able to assist you in arranging a Christian funeral for any denomination.
Gathered Here lets you instantly compare over 650+ Christian funeral directors around Australia. To search funeral directors in your area:
- Go to www.gatheredhere.com.au
- Select burial or cremation
- Select the type of funeral you are organising
- Enter your postcode and click “Compare”
For more specific information about finding a funeral director in your area, you can refer to our city specific guides:
- Christian Funerals, Sydney
- Christian Funerals, Melbourne
- Christian Funerals, Brisbane
- Christian Funerals, Adelaide
- Christian Funerals, Perth
We hope you have found this guide helpful. If you have any specific questions relating to Christian funerals, please feel free to email us at email@example.com or leave us a message in the comments section below.
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