Choosing The Right Readingshelpful tips
Most funeral services and ceremonies will include one or two readings. The nature of the funeral will normally dictate the appropriate type of reading – broadly speaking, Christian services will include bible readings, whereas non-religious poems and readings will be more appropriate for secular funerals.
Below is a just a small selection of suitable readings. If you book musicians through us, we can suggest many more.
Romans 8: vv 31-39“If God is for us, who is against us?”
What then are we to say about these things?
If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?
Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written “For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Thessalonians 4: vv 13-18“For since we believe that Jesus died…”
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.
For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.
For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord for ever.
Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Revelation 7: vv 9-17“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude…”
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!”
And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, saying,
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.”
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?”
I said to him, “Sir, you know.”
And he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night within his temple;
and he who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Revelation 21: vv 1-7“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth”
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
And I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying
“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
And he that sat upon the throne said “Behold, I make all things new”.
And he said unto me, “Write: for these words are true and faithful.”
And he said unto me “It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.”
Ecclesiastes 3: vv 1-11“For everything there is a season”
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.
What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the sons of men to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man’s mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
John 14: vv 1-14“Let not your hearts be troubled”
“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am, you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.”
Ecclesiasticus 44: vv 1-15“Let us now praise famous men”
Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us. The Lord hath wrought great glory by them through his great power from the beginning.
Such as did bear rule in their kingdoms, men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and declaring prophecies:
Leaders of the people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of learning meet for the people, wise and eloquent are their instructions:
Such as found out musical tunes, and recited verses in writing:
Rich men furnished with ability, living peaceably in their habitations:
All these were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of their times. There be of them, that have left a name behind them, that their praises might be reported.
And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born; and their children after them.
But these were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten.
With their seed shall continually remain a good inheritance, and their children are within the covenant. Their seed standeth fast, and their children for their sakes. Their seed shall remain for ever, and their glory shall not be blotted out.
Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore. The people will tell of their wisdom, and the congregation will shew forth their praise.
Philippians 4: vv 4-9“Rejoice in the Lord alway”
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
For alternative versions of the passages above, go to www.biblegateway.com and enter the name of the book and its chapter (eg Ecclesiastes 3) into the search box, and then select the version you want. The New Revised Standard Version is a good alternative.
Below are some popular non-biblical readings – but many could also be read at a Christian funeral too.
Death is nothing at allHenry Scott Holland
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 are still.
Call me by my old familiar name; speak to me in the easy way you always used. Put no difference into your tone; wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we always enjoyed together.
Play; smile; think of me; pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effort, without the ghost of a shadow in it.
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute unbroken continuity.
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well. Nothing is past; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!
What is dying?Bishop Charles Brent
I am standing on the seashore.
A ship sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.
She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her till at last she fades from the horizon, and someone at my side says, “She is gone!”
Gone from my sight, that is all;
She is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.
The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, 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, and other voices take up the glad shout,
“There she comes”.
And that is dying.
Then Almitra spokefrom The Prophet, by Khalil Ghibran
Then Almitra spoke, saying, “We would ask now of Death.”
And he said:
“You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life. For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; and like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king? Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”
Death is the future for everyonefrom Journal of a Soul, by Pope John XXIII
Death is the future for everyone.
It is the Last Post of this life and the Reveille of the next.
Death is the end of our present life, it is the parting from loved ones; it is the setting out into the unknown.
We overcome death by accepting it as the will of a loving God, by finding Him in it.
Death, like birth, is only a transformation, another birth.
When we die we shall change our state, that is all.
And in faith in God, it is as easy and natural as going to sleep here and waking up there.
Thoughts about deathfrom The Last Days of Socrates, by Plato
Socrates has been condemned to death, and Plato reports his speech to the jury:
“..I suspect that this thing that has happened to me is a blessing, and we are quite mistaken in supposing death to be an evil.
Death is one of two things. Either it is annihilation, and the dead have no consciousness of anything, or, as we are told, it is really a change: a migration of the soul from this place to another. Now if there is no consciousness but only a dreamless sleep, death must be a marvellous gain.
I suppose that if anyone were told to pick out the night on which he slept so soundly as not even to dream, and then to compare it with all the other nights and days of his life, and then were told to say, after due consideration, how many better and happier days and nights than this he had spent in the course of his life – well, I think that the Great King himself, to say nothing of any private person, would find these days and nights easy to count in comparison with the rest. If death is like this, then, I call it gain, because the whole of time, if you look at it in this way, can be regarded as no more than one single night.
If on the other hand death is a removal from here to some other place, and if what we are told is true, that all the dead are there, what greater blessing could there be than this?
If on arrival in the other world, beyond the reach of our so-called justice, one will find there the true judges who are said to preside in those courts, Minos and Rhadamanthus and Aeacus and Triptolemus and all those other half-divinities who were upright in their earthly life, would that be an unrewarding journey?
Put it in this way. How much would one of you give to meet Orpheus and Musaeus, Hesiod and Homer? I am willing to die ten times over if this account is true. It would be a specially interesting experience for me to join them there, to meet Palamedes and Ajax, the son of Telamon, and any other heroes of the old days who met their death through an unfair trial, and to compare my fortunes with theirs – it would be rather amusing, I think.
And above all I should like to spend my time there, as here, in examining and searching people’s minds, to find out who is really wise among them, and who only thinks that he is.
What would one not give, gentlemen, to be able to question the leader of that great host against Troy, or Odysseus, or Sisyphus, or the thousands of other men and women whom one could mention, to talk and mix and argue with whom would be unimaginable happiness?
At any rate I presume that they do not put one to death there for such conduct, because apart from the other happiness in which their world surpasses ours, they are now immortal for the rest of time, if what we are told is true.
Now it is time that we were going, I to die and you to live; but which of us has the happier prospect is unknown to anyone but God.”
From the Christmas messagegiven by King George VI in December 1939
I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied,
‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!’
So I went forth and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
Here are some beautiful non-religious poems – but again, many are suitable for Christian ceremonies too.
Fear no more the heat o’ the sunfrom Cymbeline – W Shakespeare
Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke:
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.
Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan;
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.
No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renownéd be thy grave!
Our revels now are endedfrom The Tempest – W Shakespeare
Our revels now are ended.
These our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, the cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself, yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve and, like this insubstantial pageant faded, leave not a rack behind.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.
Let me not to the marriage of true mindsSonnet 116 – W Shakespeare
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Soul and bodyMargaret Cavendish
Great Nature she doth clothe the soul within,
A fleshy garment which the Fates do spin.
And when these garments are grown old, and bare,
With sickness torn, Death takes them off with care.
And folds them up in peace, and quiet rest,
So lays them in an earthly chest.
Then scours them, and makes them sweet, and clean,
Fit for the soul to wear those clothes again.
Do not stand at my grave and weepMary Fyre
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
If I should go before the rest of youJoyce Grenfell
If I should go before the rest of you,
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone.
Nor when I am gone speak in a Sunday voice,
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must – parting is hell;
But life goes on, so sing as well.
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.