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Modern funeral hymns

Ten wonderful modern hymns, each suitable for a memorable and meaningful funeral for those with Christian beliefs.

Listen also to Raphael's excellent farewell number, My Last Song I Sing For You.

At The Name Of Jesus (Every Knee Shall Bow)

A simple but powerful hymn by Christopher Walker. Born and educated in England, he served as director of music at Clifton Cathedral.

Each verse, more uplifting than the last, gives strength and hope: ‘Name Him, brothers, name Him, with love strong as death/But with awe and wonder, and with bated breath!/He is God the Savior, He is Christ the Lord,/Ever to be worshipped, trusted and adored.’

It can be heard here, and this is a clip on YouTube.

Be Not Afraid

A wonderful late 20th century hymn written by John Michael Talbot, founder of a monastic community, the Brothers and Sisters of Charity.

The words and sentiments are extremely suitable for a funeral. 

This is the second verse. ‘If you pass through raging waters in the sea, you shall not drown./If you walk amid the burning flames, you shall not be harmed./If you stand before the pow'r of hell and death is at your side, know that/I am with you through it all.’

Fly Like A Bird

A really impressive and musical hymn, written by Ken Canedo, an American religious composer whose songs are sung in Catholic churches around the world.

This verse is particularly important for a funeral service:  ‘Where can I run from your love?/Where can I hide from my God?/From the dawn of morning's light to the darkness of the night,/O God, your presence is real.’

Listen and download a contemporary treatment here.  There’s also a YouTube clip.

Hail Mary, Gentle Woman

A hauntingly beautiful song written by Carey Landry an American composer of Catholic liturgical music.

Ideal for a funeral, with this appropriate passage: ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God/pray for us sinners now/and at the hour of death.’

Watch this clip, or listen and download a better version here.

Hold Me In Life

A beautiful and melodic hymn written by Dutchman Bernard Huijbers (1922 - 2003).  Huijbers believed that liturgical music must be simple, that the assembly must be viewed as a "performing audience" and that the music must bring life to what it celebrates.

The text, or lyric, is based on Psalm 25.

Hear part of it here.

How Can I Keep From Singing: Enya

Although first written in the middle of the 19th century, this hymn only became popular when American folk singer and protest movement leader Pete Seeger sang it with a political verse in the 1960s.

Enya has recorded a truly beautiful version which will grace any religious funeral.

Oh God, You Search Me

A gorgeous hymn that says that God knows everything about you, the life you have led, the life that has ended. Written by British hymnwriter, Bernadette Farrell, this modern classic is extremely easy to hear, yet profound in its message.

‘Although your Spirit is upon me/Still I search for shelter from your light./There is nowhere on earth I can escape you/Even the darkness is radiant in your sight.’

On Eagle’s Wings

This is a simple yet inspirational hymn written in 1979 by Michael Joncas, an American Catholic Priest.

A modern and easily sung piece of music, and now a popular hymn at funerals.

This refrain says it all: ‘And He will raise you up on eagle's wings/Bear you on the breath of dawn/Make you to shine like the sun/And hold you in the palm of His Hand.’

Only This I Want

A mesmeric and contemporary hymn written by Jesuit Dan Schutte. It has a simple but strong lyric.

This verse is particularly poignant for a funeral: ‘Let your heart be glad/always glad in the Lord/so to shine like stars/in the darkness of the night.’

Listen and download here.

You Are Mine

A soothing and reassuring modern hymn written by David Hass, an American Catholic composer of  liturgical music.

This song brings hope to the heart, and tears to the eyes.

It is appropriate for the funeral of a believer, with this verse in particular worth noting: 'I am the Word that leads all to freedom/I am the peace the world cannot give/I will call your name, embracing all your pain/Stand up, now, walk, and live.'

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Paul Hensby wrote on 7 Dec 10 at 5:07pm
Paul Hensby

Thanks to Raphael Oyelade for this selection of modern funeral hymns. I'm impressed by how powerful these funeral songs are at expressing the feelings so important at a Christian funeral. The funeral music chosen for the final event leaves a lasting and profound memory which is why funeral hymns are central to My Last Song and its purpose.

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