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Unitarian funerals

Unitarians consider religion to be broad, inclusive and tolerant. Consequently a Unitarian congregation can include those who are of different religions, or none.

Unitarian funerals vary according to the beliefs, views and values of the person who has died and are usually flexible enough to enable all to feel included.

The funeral is likely to celebrate the life of the person who has died rather than emphasise any religious significance of the death and what may follow.

The service is designed to give the death meaning by exploring the life of the person who has died, as well as the gifts they have left behind.

It usually includes readings, prayers, music and memories, forming a tribute to the deceased as well as comforting friends and relatives.

Families are encouraged to have as much input as possible, making the funeral personal and meaningful.

A Unitarian funeral is a 'pick ‘mix' funeral as it encourages a mix of the religious and secular in order to celebrate the life of the deceased and involve the family.

The service is often conducted by Lay Chaplains.

Approved/typical venues

The home, church, chapel, cemetery or crematorium. To find a congregation near you, visit the Unitarian church website.

Length of funeral and other 'rules'

Unitarians can be buried or cremated. The length of the funeral is constrained by the time allocations at the chosen crematorium or cemetery.

However, a funeral event can take place at the family home or church hall before the commital at the crematorium or cemetery, and can be as long as required.

Your funeral director will give detailed advice on organising a Unitarian funeral.

Funerals usually take place within a few days of death.

Funerals include the blessing at the committal of the body.

There are few rules other than to arrange a funeral that is fitting for the person whose life has ended. An increasing number of these will be ‘pick ‘n mix’ of the Unitarian type.

Things to discuss with your Minister

  • Burial or cremation?
  • A ceremony in the home, church, chapel, cemetery or crematorium?
  • If cremation, then where do you want the ashes to be scattered or interred?
  • Who will be the pallbearers?
  • Who will do the readings?
  • Are there any special readings, music, poems, hymns or prayers you would like included?
  • How much are the church fees?
  • Are there other fees, for example for the musicians?
  • Should you bring your children if they are young?
  • What about a headstone to mark the grave?
  • Are there rules about what memorials you can choose?
  • Flowers from the family, from everyone, or donations to a good cause or charity?

Typical Order of Service

Orders of service can vary and should be discussed with the Minister to fit with your wishes or those of the family.

Secular music and readings

These are permitted and should be discussed with the Minister.

Should we have a gathering afterwards?

There are no rules about gatherings and many people choose to go on from the funeral to a gathering of family and friends.

Memorial services

A memorial service is often appropriate. This can be arranged any time after the death and can take place in any appropriate venue.

Unitarians think it a good way of celebrating a life.

Plan ahead

If you want a unitarian funeral, put that in your funeral wishes. Store these in your Lifebox which will be accessed when you die so that your family can read and carry out your funeral wishes. (SL-B)

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