As we go through life, funerals are something we eventually witness, attend, or unfortunately participate in. These events often come with much confusion, discomfort and perhaps, even a general sense of loss.
Our four-part series will provide you with the answers you’re looking for, by delving into the funeral customs, traditions and etiquettes of Singapore’s four major religious groups. In this final part of the series, we’ll explore the ins and outs of Christian funerals. Read on to find out more!
What is a Christian funeral?
At a glance, a Christian funeral service in Singapore can easily be confused with a Catholic one. Similar to their Catholic counterparts, Christians believe in the afterlife. They believe that the soul of the deceased continues on to Heaven or Hell.
Much like Taoism and Buddhism, the Christian faith has several denominations under its umbrella. These denominations determine the manner in which some of the traditions and rites are carried out.
Christian funeral traditions
So, what are Christian funeral rites and traditions? Let’s find out now!
Christian funerals are held either in a Christian church, in a funeral parlour or at the void deck. These funerals are led by a Christian pastor. In a typical Christian funeral, family and friends gather to support one another during the vigil service, where eulogies, scripture reading and prayers often take place. Food is also commonly served to guests with soft hymns being played in the background.
While Mass is usually carried out in Catholic funerals, it’s not the case for Christian funerals. Depending on the denomination of the deceased, Mass may or may not be held in a Christian funeral.
Christian funeral set–up
The flow of a Christian funeral typically begins with the pastor giving an opening statement to welcome all the funeral attendees before an initial prayer to start the ceremony. A session of hymns, prayer and sermon follows. Guests are encouraged to sing along during the hymnal session. Sermons are usually personalised, though Psalm 23 is a commonly read Psalm at Christian funerals.
Friends and family are also given time during the funeral to share a few words on their loved one who has passed on, eulogies are read out and oftentimes, a video montage commemorating the deceased is played.
The service comes to a close with the pastor offering words of comfort and a closing prayer. This service is typically held on the last night of the wake or just before the cremation/burial, lasting anywhere between 30 minutes and one hour. While the service is usually sombre and formal, the vigil (wake) itself is much more casual, allowing family and friends to converse with one another.
Christian Funeral Etiquette
You might ask, do these traditions extend to us as guests at a wake—what is expected of me if I’m not part of the Christian faith? Are there things we should take note of when attending a Christian funeral? No matter what our faith is, it’s always courteous and respectful for us as guests to familiarise ourselves with the customs.
Casual wear is acceptable as long as they are modest and in darker colours—black or muted colours are a safe choice. As a visitor, you may not be required to sing along during the hymnal session, though it is considerate of you to stand when others do.
Other typical forms of expressing sympathy and condolence are through the giving of condolence money and the gifting of sympathy stands (whether floral or LED). If you’re intending to gift the bereaved family LED sympathy stands, do be sure to engage a licensed LED wreath vendor as Singapore’s government has recently tightened the rules surrounding the display of such stands.
These days, it’s also becoming more popular for funerals to feature wishing trees and memory books, where guests can leave condolence messages and share fond anecdotes of the deceased.
Wishing tree and memory book provided by the Direct Funeral Services team
After all, what better way to honour the legacy of those who are no longer with us than to remember the beautiful moments that we once shared with them?
What other aspects of Christian funeral packages or services would you like us to explore? Drop us your suggestion via our Instagram @directfuneralservices!