Saturday, 9 February 2008

Advice for planning funerals

We know that many of the people we come in touch with each year are people who have approached us because they have recently lost a loved one. They have chosen All Saints as the venue for the service, be it before a burial in the churchyard, or going on to the crematorium.

Alternatively, if the service is only taking place at the crematorium, with no service in church, one of the clergy from All Saints of the Whitstable team is taking the service at the crematorium and you have been directed to this webpage to help you plan for the service. If that is the case, this information will be equally helpful to you.

It is important that we help them plan for the service, and you may be reading this part of the website because the vicar has directed you to this page. If so, we do hope you find it helpful.

So now we move to the first person, as I let you know that it is I the vicar who is addressing you the mourner.Firstly, before proceeding, please may we at All Saints assure you of our love and prayers at this very difficult time. May you know God's peace and the promise of eternal life, and may you know the hope that is in Christ and his resurrection throughout the dark tunnel of grief that lies ahead.Whoever is taking the funeral will be in touch very soon. This information below is purely to assist you in preparing for the service.



Firstly, if you are planning on having hymns at the funeral, we would suggest you choose two or three if the service is to be held at the church, and one or two if it is to be held just at the crematorium.There is a good website which has the words and music from hymns. Before you do you may want to make a note of the most popular hymns for funerals:

Abide with me
All things bright and beautiful
Lead us heavenly Father, lead us
Love divine all love's excelling
Lord of all hopefulness
Make me a channel of your peace
Morning has broken
Praise my soul the king of heaven
The day thou gavest Lord is ended
The King of love my shepherd is
The Lord's my shepherd

The website is the following, and you can click on it now:
If you are planning on creating your own order of service, with the hymn words on it, please bear in mind that you may need to change some of the wording from American to English spellings. For order of services please see further down this page.

If you like, you can have a piece of music played on CD, either entering the church or crematorium, leaving the church or crematorium, or half way through the service, or a combination of these.

If you are having a service at the crematorium there are time factors to consider as the length of the service should not exceed 25 minutes. Please talk to the minister leading the service about what might or might not be possible in terms of CD music, especially if you are also having one or two hymns.If you are having CD pieces at the crematorium, it is a good idea to give the CDs to the funeral director at least one day before the funeral.

If the CD is at the church, please give the CDs to the vicar at least one day before the funeral, or our funeral verger, Carol Sims, if the vicar is not on taking the service. (Carol's phone number is 01227 263616).


Readings are important parts of the service. They are not essential, but they often create a meditative mood, and often come before the talk about your loved one's life, or just afterwards.

We recommend that you have one reading from the bible. Especially as this is a Christian service, it is important to hear the Christian hope as expressed through the words of the bible.To find a suitable reading please visit this website:

You may also wish to have a poem read out, either by the minister or by a member of the family or friend. Over the fourteen years I have been taking funerals I have come across many poems and reflections that are helpful and I list them now. Maybe you could choose one, or two if the service is at the church (as there is more time):

A ship sails

A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon and someoneat my side says "She is gone".
Gone where?
Gone from my sight, that is all.
She is just as large now aswhen I last saw her.
Her diminished size and total loss from my sight is inme, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone at my side says she is gone there are others who are watching her coming over their horizon and other voices takeup a glad shout
"Here she comes!"
That is what dying is.
An horizon and just the limit of our sight.
Lift us up, Oh Lord, that we may see further

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other that we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Pray, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household wordthat it always was.
Let it be spoken without effortwithout the trace of a shadow in it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you somewhere very near
just around the corner.
All is well.

Henry Scott Holland(1847-1918) Canon of St Paul's Cathedral

When I come to the end of the road,
And the sun has set for me,
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room.
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little--but not too long,
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared,
Miss me--but let me go.
For this is a journey that we all must take
And each must go alone.
It's all a part of the Master's plan,
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick of heart
Go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
Miss Me--But Let me Go!

In this one "he" can be exchanged for "she"

You can shed tears that he is gone or you can smile because he has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that he'll come back
or you can open your eyes and see all he's left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see him
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him and only that he's gone
or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
or you can do what he'd want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

If I should go tomorrow
It would never be goodbye
For I have left my heart with you
So don’t you ever cry.
The love that’s deep within me,
Shall reach you from the stars,
You’ll feel it from the heavens,
And it will heal your scars


We give them back to you, dear Lord,
Who gave them to us,
Yet as you did not lose them in giving – so we have not lost them by their return.
Not as the world gives, do you give, O lover of souls,
What you give you do not take away,
For what is yours is ours always – if we are yours,
And life is eternal and love is immortal and death is only an horizon,
and an horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.
Lift us up, strong Son of God, that we may see further.
Cleanse our eyes that we may see clearly.
Draw us close to yourself that we may know ourselves nearer to our beloved who are with you,
And while you prepare a place for us,
Prepare us for that happy place, that where they are and you are we may be.


You will see that the title of this post at the top says "Advice for planning funerals". If you click on these words it will take you to a Microsoft Word template which you can download. It is presented in an A4 format which needs folding in half. The title page therefore appears on the right hand side of the page, as the page as you see it is before it is folded.

The wording inside the template is typical for a funeral order of service, with most of the text devoted to the hymn words. You can vary the template - for example by saying "The Talk" or "The Address" instead of "The Eulogy". Obviously, this is an order of service typical for a service in church. The cover would need to change and mention the crematorium if it was at the crematorium, for example "Barham Crematorium Chapel".

We cannot print order of services at All Saints office as our equipment is not of high quality and we do not employ a member of staff to man the office. However, most computer printers do print good quality prints so it should be possible to put in the hymn words and print off your own copy using the template, changing the words to suit you. If you are proficient with computers you should be able to scan in a photograph of your loved one where the "cross" is on the front page.

You do not need an order of service of course. We have our own standard order at the church and there are service books at all crematoria. But if you want to go for something that extra bit special, this template is a good way forward. Even if you are using a professional printing agency it's a good idea to format the draft yourself. Please email it to me, the Vicar, Rev Simon Tillotson, for inspection first before printing at

Another tip - always print an extra 20 more than the guests you are expecting. It is better safe than sorry.


This is one of the most important parts of the service - the talk about your loved one. Often the vicar or minister taking the service will be asked to do this. Sometimes a member of the family or friend wishes to do it.

It is of course entirely up to the next of kin to make decisions of this nature.If you wish me to do it, or the minister taking the service, it's a good idea to think about the sort of things you want them to say before they arrange to meet with you face to face. Sometimes jotting down the rough framework of your loved ones life - birthday and place, childhood, job, marriage, children, hobbies, personality - can be very helpful. Any anecdotes or funny stories can be appropriate to lighten the gloom of the service and make it more human.

If you are planning on giving the talk yourself, it's always a good idea to have it written down in case you become very tearful and need the minister to take over. Should this happen it is entirely understandable.It is a good idea to share with me or the minister taking the service a little about what you are going to say. This gives the minister a better "feel" for the funeral and helps to set the tone.

If you are planning on giving the talk at a service at the crematorium it's best not to make the talk too long as there is a time limit of 25 minutes for the whole service. If you are just having one hymn or one piece of music during the service it is fine to make the talk last for ten minutes, but a shorter talk is preferable if there are two hymns.

If I am taking the funeral, please email me your thoughts to or tell me what you would like when we meet up. If possible, if you have a lot of questions, it's more sensible to leave them till we meet up as we can cover a lot of ground much quicker in a conversation than by email, though I still welcome emails if you think they would be helpful, especially after I have been to see you.


The service normally starts with something called "The Opening Sentences"
These are passages from the bible which create a sense of dignity and provide a framework for the beginning of the service.Then, there is normally a hymn, followed by a reading or poem (or both), and then the talk.

Then, if you are having a second hymn, it would follow at this point. Then there are the prayers which are led by the minister usually. Then the prayer of commendation follows where we commend the soul of your loved one to Almighty God (in other words we entrust their soul to God's safekeeping). A third hymn may follow if the service is at church. The committal takes place either at the graveside or the crematorium.

For full details of words used at a funeral please visit this link, though remember that not all of these words will be used at the service. The minister normally decides what is appropriate and the family normally trusts his or her judgement on this. However, if there are any of the prayers that you particularly want, please mention this to the minister and he or she will incorporate them.

The link


I am hoping you have found this information helpful.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at or on 01227 272308 if you have any further questions.

With every good wish. My prayers are with you.

Rev Simon Tillotson