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Funeral and the Burial of the Dead

Funeral may be seen as the full stop of the life of the dead. It also offers an occasion for the relatives and friends of the dead to express their sorrow and to thank God for guarding the dead to complete his/her journey on earth. Since ancient times, different rites have been used by human beings to say good-bye to the departed loved one.

The rite of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui funeral service ranges from a simple, quiet and short service attended by family members of the dead to a solemn service attended by crowds of relatives and friends accompanied with music and hymns.

Whether a funeral service is held in a parish church or in a funeral parlour, it can be conducted according to the rite prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer. If it is taken place in a church, the service can be combined with Holy Communion. Regardless of the rite, the theme is always about God's love of all people on earth.

A Question of Life and Death

Funeral rite usually reflects the character of the dead, like a tapestry woven with sorrow, thanksgiving, joy and sadness. It would be extremely sad if the deceased died young. However, if one died after a long and eventful life it would be celebrated with thanksgiving.

To faithful Christians who completed their life on earth, the funeral service is a triumph of home-coming as depicted in the book, The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come, "These trumpeters saluted Christian and his fellow with ten thousand welcomes from the world; and this they did with shouting, and sound of trumpet." However, funeral always reminds us about life and death. Jesus said the God who gives life is God not of the dead, but of the living. Christians believe the resurrection of Christ is the triumph over sin and gives us the eternal life.

Christianity has tried hard to resolve historical issues, such as the "last four things" - heaven, hell, death and judgment. We know well that all will be judged by God. The love, mercy and judgment of God have always been the theme of Christian writings.

No one can offer a precise answer to the question, "What does heaven like?" But it would be the most joyful thing to stand in front of God and receive His love with all saints in heaven. No matter how well we live today it is only a flicker of the glory of eternal life.

Most Christians would describe hell is a place where it is separated from God's love. Walking into hell is out of our own free choice because God never wish us to be separated from Him.

Funeral Service

At the beginning of the service, the officiating minister will read some comforting biblical passages, such as "'I am the resurrection and the life,' says the Lord." "Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." Or, "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." Or, "Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. So we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words."

At the readings, Psalm 23 is always read together with other appropriate biblical passages. A sermon on the dead and on what Christianity believes about after life will be delivered to comfort and encourage those who are mourning. Some funeral service is conducted without sermon after readings.

The Burial of the Dead

The burial is the solemn moment of the funeral. It can be held at the side of the grave or in a hall of the crematorium.

At the cemetery, relatives of the dead will gather around the grave and listen to an ancient form of Committal: "We have entrusted our brother/sister N to God's mercy, and we now commit his/her body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our frail bodies that they may be conformed to his glorious body, who died, was buried, and rose again for us. To him be glory for ever." After prayer and blessing by the minister, relatives and friends may throw dusts on the coffin.

In the case of cremation, the officiating minister or relative of the dead will push the button to lower the coffin after the recital of the ancient form of Committal until it is out of sight. The atmosphere at the burial is usually heavy and sad. On the other hand, many feel the joy of the Christian who believes that there is life after death expressed in prayer. The sorrow of the passing away of a loved one would be gradually healed with prayer and the belief that the dead is now sheltered in the hands of God.

Funeral Arrangement

Relatives of the dead will follow the instructions of the dead if there is a will. Many do not know that funeral service can be held in church and many Christians do not realize that funeral service can be combined with Holy Communion. Parish ministers treat funeral as an important pastoral duty. They are willing to spend more time with family members of the dead to comfort them, to know and assist them about the funeral arrangements.

If a minister is to be asked to officiate at the funeral service, his/her schedule must be known and confirmed before proceeding to make other funeral arrangements. If the dead is not well known to the officiating minister, the relatives should provide detailed information. This is particularly important if sermon will be delivered at the service.

Normally funeral is arranged through an undertaker whom should be contacted first by the relative of the dead. Undertakers are very familiar about the venue of funeral service, the local ministers, cemeteries and crematoria. They can also offer views and information on other matters, such as expenses, etc..


Fewer and fewer burial plots at Christian cemeteries in Hong Kong are now available while there are still some burial plots at the public Wo Hop Shek Cemetery. The undertaker will offer suggestions. Cremation is very common nowadays. Funeral service will be held in a funeral parlour before cremation is taken place at a crematorium. Ashes collected after the cremation may be placed in a niche of a columbarium with inscription and photo.

After the Funeral

At the time of making funeral arrangements, the sorrow of the loss of the loved one may be suppressed but will re-surface after the funeral. The grievousness will persist for a period of time. If necessary, your parish ministers are willing to help. Supports can also be obtained from those Christians and ministers who have recently lost their loved one.

Our mind and heart will be at peace if we believe in Jesus's promises and bear the hope of resurrection to the belief that our departed loved one is now sheltered by the hands of God.