The collection of funeral hymns presented here is mainly based on our own experience and from the Funeral Services book that is available in most crematoriums. They represent the most common choices these days from across the various church denominations.
Choosing the right funeral hymns
Funeral hymns are not the only musical option for a funeral ceremony but they do often seem to be the cause of most worry and anxiety for the person or persons planning the funeral. This is because it is one particular choice that affects (because it involves and relies upon the co-operation of) the whole congregation. In doing so opens up a plethora of doubt and uncertainty regarding the choosing of "suitable" hymns.
When choosing the hymns for a funeral ceremony there are a number of things to bear in mind:
1. Funeral Hymns: Whether the words are understandable and appropriate?
Because the Christian faith is so closely linked to our eternal destiny, there are many appropriate hymns. However, some popular choices have words that people find difficult to grasp under normal circumstances, let alone at a time of distress. Some others (such as Jerusalem) might not be appropriate on closer inspection.
2. Funeral Hymns: What proportion of the congregation are likely to know them?
It is worth bearing in mind the age range of the congregation and their experience of ‘church'. Some of the younger generation may only know what could be called ‘school hymns'. It is embarrassing for everyone if the minister is the only one singing
3. Funeral Hymns: How easy the tune is to learn and sing?
There will always be some who don't know any hymn, so a good sing-able tune is essential - not too tricky and neither too high nor too low. For example, I am the bread of life has an irregular metre (i.e. there are extra notes in some verses) which catches people unawares and shakes their confidence.
4. Funeral Hymns: How long is it?
Some popular choices are quite long and repetitive. For example, All things bright and beautiful has five proper verses with a chorus in between each and a chorus at the beginning and the end. For all the saints is even longer with eight verses!
5.The faith of the deceased and the likely congregation:
Some popular funeral hymns are only really appropriate at the funeral of a committed Christian, and perhaps even then only when a significant proportion of the congregation also have a strong faith. This is usually because the words express clear, firm beliefs which some people may find hard to affirm and sing with enthusiasm.
Because all funeral hymns differ in their popularity, and also take into account the expected congregations familiarity of the words and tune, we would suggest that you make your initial choices of hymns based on your own knowledge of the deceased and the circumstances of the death, which you can then present to the minister involved, be prepared to be flexible by taking on board his or her advice, their knowledge and past experience will be be a great help to you when narrowing down and subsequently determining the final choice.