Anglican Funerals

Information on Anglican funeral traditions and etiquette

Last updated: 29 November 2016

Anglicanism is a branch of Christianity. Anglicans believe that eternal life is reached through faith in Jesus Christ. They also believe that both Heaven and Hell are literal places, rather than a state of being. They believe that those who have faith in Jesus will be brought back to life on Judgement Day. Around 17% of Australians identify as being Anglican.

Planning an Anglican funeral

In an Anglican funeral, it is common for a member of the clergy to assist in the planning and directing of the funeral service. Despite this support, enlisting the assistance of a funeral director is strongly advised.

Anyone can ask an Anglican minister to preside over a funeral – the person who has passed away does not necessarily have to have been a member of the Anglican church.

Anglican funeral traditions

A viewing service, where mourners come to view their loved one, can take place at the discretion of the family. 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 Anglicanism.

Anglican funeral service

The Anglican funeral order of service is generally structured to include hymns, prayers, a sermon, and a reading from the Book of Common Prayer. Typically a priest will preside over the service and lead mourners in prayer.

The funeral service may include 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 ceremony. It will remain shut throughout the service, and will not be opened at any point. If there is no casket, a memorial service is often held instead, which commonly uses a photograph in place of the casket.

Songs of significance to the family or their loved one can be played at the request of the family, as long as they are deemed worship-appropriate by the priest.

Anglican burial or cremation

The service culminates with the burial in a cemetery or entombment in a mausoleum. A priest will lead the Anglican burial service, giving the proper rites and reciting prayers. In the case of cremation, the ashes may otherwise be entombed in a columbarium or buried on the private land of a loved one.

After the 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. Anglicans do not have any prescribed mourning periods or memorial events.

Anglican funeral etiquette

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

During Holy Communion it is acceptable to remain seated if you do not wish to participate; simply wait quietly and respectfully. Equally, many Anglican churches will welcome non-members to celebrate Holy Communion with them, and this may be communicated to the congregation by the priest 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.