Opening prayers for memorial service

Losing a loved one can bring about an array of emotions and feelings. Making it through the grieving process starts with the memorial and burial as you carry onward to the next stages of coping. To ease the pain, here is a look at some good opening prayers for funerals to get you started.

Prayers #1

Good afternoon everybody. May I ask that we all bow our heads in prayer.

Our Lord we acknowledge your presence here, and come before your throne this afternoon as friends and family of Adrian Elm. We are here because we love him and miss him and we want to cherish our memories of him, we want to honor his life and honor him and support one another as we grieve his passing – a passing from life here with us to everlasting life there with you O Lord.

God, thank you for Adrian! You formed him, you knew him, you walked with him through 80 years, and even now we have confidence that he is in your presence.

Thank you that you are a God of mercy, who promises to comfort us, particularly when we lose our loved ones, and so in these moments now, and in the weeks and months ahead, please bring comfort and mercy to us as we remember, and share fondly all that Adrian was to us.

In the mighty and holy name of Jesus we pray.

Prayers #2

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 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:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

Prayers #3

Our father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and ever.

Prayers #4

The Lord is my shepherd: I shall lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over. Surely goodness and loving kindness shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Prayers #5

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the gentle,
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,
for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Prayers #6

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

Prayers #7

Now my soul is deeply troubled. Shall I pray, ‘Father save me from what lies ahead?’ But that is the very reason why I came! Father, bring glory and honor to your name.

Prayers #8

We are grieving over the unexpected loss of our brother. Lord, just last Sunday he was telling me how excited he was to be part of this church. He was on fire for You, Father. We all saw how joy radiated from him. His love for You was unquenchable and we are mourning the loss of this wonderful man. Father, be with his wife and young children. Raise this congregation up to be the hands and feet of Jesus to this family. Father, love on John’s children. Wrap Your arms around them, for there will be a day when they see him again in Heaven. Father, speak tenderly to his wife and comfort her in this unbearable time of life. Father, this is a very tragic event and yet we know that nothing surprises You. So, in faith we continue to ask and seek Your will in this most desperate time of need. Father, shower this family with love and affection as they grieve through this painful time. We love You, and thank You for Jesus! Amen

Prayers #9

God be in my head,
and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes,
and in my looking;
God be in my mouth,
and in my speaking;
God be in my heart,
and in my thinking;
God be at my end,
and at my departing.

Prayers #10

Lord, in weakness or in strength
we bear your image.
We pray for those we love
who now live in a land of shadows,
where the light of memory is dimmed,
where the familiar lies unknown,
where the beloved become as strangers.
Hold them in your everlasting arms,
and grant to those who care
a strength to serve,
a patience to persevere,
a love to last
and a peace that passes human understanding.
Hold us in your everlasting arms,
today and for all eternity;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Check out this one memorial service with a selection of opening prayers that are recited and exchanged.

Excerpted from “Remembering Well” by Sarah York. c 2000 by Sarah York. Used with permission.

Not long ago, I attended a memorial service that was planned and conducted by a friend of the bereaved family. It was in many ways a satisfying ceremony, providing space for people to share their memories of the person who had died. But the service leader conducted the service as if he were the master of ceremonies introducing one act after another. A memorial service is less like a variety show and more like a musical composition or a woven fabric. Each part, from beginning to end, is a part of the whole and contributes to the rhythm and mood of the entire service. Each part has a purpose, and participants need to know how they fit into the larger design, the fuller meaning.

Four elements are essential to nearly all ceremonies (with additional readings or music included as desired):

  1. Opening remarks
  2. Honoring and remembering the person who has died
  3. Invoking a spirit of gratitude, healing, and love (as in a litany or a prayer)
  4. Offer words of blessing and inspiration for the living

Setting the Tone

Opening remarks set the tone and create space for what people are feeling. When you enter a space to honor someone who has died, you don’t want to wait long before hearing what it is that has brought you there. And you want to hear a name–“dearly departed one” or “the deceased” just doesn’t cut it.

The words that open a service define the space as holy and the time as sacred. This is particularly important when the space itself is not a traditional religious setting. The opening words invoke a spirit of love and healing to prevail. They may be offered in an informal setting but should never be offered casually. The first words spoken set the tone for the entire service.

What tone or style will be in keeping with the spirit of the person who is being remembered? Should it be dignified, warm, creative, pious, earthy, sophisticated, homespun? Whatever it is, it will come across as much in the presence of the person speaking and in the preparation of the meeting space as in the words spoken. Often there is something in the opening words that invites the spirit of the person who has died into the space.

Readings and Music Readings and music nourish the soul, ground the spirit, and invite emotional release. They are not essential to the basic structure of a service, but they are often included for their power to offer spiritual nourishment and to touch universal chords of human feeling. Because of their power, they need to be carefully chosen, with an eye and ear towards being as inclusive as possible of the various perspectives that people in attendance will have.

Any readings used in a memorial service should be selected intentionally and used sparingly. Most people do not come to a funeral to hear a sermon or philosophize about death. They come in the presence of death to grieve and reflect on what is meaningful in life; they come to be comforted and uplifted in their time of loss. Reading–a short poem, a scriptural selection–should be brief and should be chosen to serve a very specific purpose at a particular time in the service:

  • At the start of the service, to define sacred space and invoke a holy presence for the time together
  • As part of a eulogy or personal remarks, to invoke the person’s presence–especially if the selection was written by the person, especially meaningful to the person, or particularly reflective of the person’s life
  • Before a selection of music, to comfort or offer reflection
  • To lead into a time of meditation or prayer
  • At the close of the service, to uplift and offer peace, hope, and promise

Music is the language of the soul–a powerful source of healing. Its selection will be dictated by individual tastes and by the tone or style the family wants for the service.

Use music once or at most twice during the service, as relevant. It may be introduced as something requested by or composed for the deceased. It may just be a quiet reflective piece following a prayer or reading. If music is likely to evoke powerful emotions, it should be used only

The prayers below are freely available for non-profit evangelization purposes.
Please use and adapt them as you see fit.

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Categories (in alphabetical order)
Adult Faith
Blessings and Special Prayers
Bereavement Prayers
Bullying & Safe Schools
Children’s Prayers
French Language Prayers
New:  Graduation
New:  Indigenous Peoples
Life (Prayers for)
New:  Mercy
Natural Disasters
New Evangelization
Professional Activity
School Council Activity
School Improvement & Safe Schools
Special Education & Special Needs
Strategic Planning
Teacher Inservice/Orientation

NEW:  What Makes an Effective Prayer Service?
(One page overview of how to put together an effective prayer service for use in our Catholic schools. Explains individual parts with helpful diagram to illustrate how they fit together.)

NEW:  What Makes an Effective Prayer Service?
(One page overview of how to put together an effective prayer service for use in our Catholic schools. Explains individual parts with helpful diagram to illustrate how they fit together.)
NEW:   School Mass Planning Template
(Recommended for staff members planning school Masses, adapted from template in EOCCC’s Curriculum Support for Catholic Schools)

Adult Faith – Prayers, Reflection Exercises and Links

The Door of Faith

(Prayer for Catholic educators/leadership at the start of the Year of Faith)Faith, Professionalism and Wellness(5 minute prayer service to open a PA session or day) Our Journey in Faith(Prayer to open board wide school council gathering)Educating in the Light of Faith(Suitable for Inservice/New Teacher Induction)The Gift of Faith(Prayer service to celebrate the virtue of Faith)Disciples and Citizens(Opening Prayer, TPA Inservice, Curriculum Inservice, Staff or Leadership Meeting)RCCDSB Adult Faith Resource PageRCCDSB Year of Faith Resource Page

Blessings and Special Prayers

New:  Blessing for Crucifixes

(Suitable where crucifixes are being blessed for new school or given out for special purpose. Adapted from various blessings for religious articles)Commissioning Prayer for School Council Chairs(Suitable for use during Mass or as part of a prayer service)Ground-breaking for a New School Prayer ServiceBlessing of Land for a New School(Included in Ground-breaking prayer above, can be used alone)Morning Offering(Composed by Mr. Tony Contant’s class at St. James Catholic School, Eganville)Blessing of Rosaries and Commissioning Prayer for New StaffPrayers for a Priest Who Has DiedPrayer to Bless a New Play StructureChildren’s Prayer Links(Loyola Press website)

Bereavement Prayers

Prayers for a Priest Who Has Died
New:  Prayer for Member of School Community Who Has Died
(Suitable for staff or whole school use; you may wish to include parish priest, if available)

Prayer Service for a Colleague Who has Died
(Earlier version of above prayer. Suitable for staff use)Prayer for a Friend/Colleague Who has Died
(Closing prayer from above prayer service)Catholic Funerals and Eulogies, the Pall and the Flag
(CCCB, 2006.  Explains why Funeral Mass is not proper place for eulogy, and how deceased person may be appropriately remembered during the Mass and homily. Also explains the significance of the pall – reminder of Baptism, new life in resurrected Christ – and flag )Suggested Readings for a Catholic Funeral(From St. John the Baptist Catholic parish, Brighton, MN.  Links to readings are from American NAB translation.  A funeral service in Canada should use the NRSV translation in the Canadian lectionary. Nevertheless, still a good reference list – both for funerals and school memorial services/prayer services)

Bullying and Safe Schools

RCCDSB Resource Package, Reverencing the Dignity of All

(Bullying Awareness Week  AM announcements and prayers, classroom exercises)Scripture Reflections Around Bullying Issues(Anti-bullying prayer service can be built around these reflections.)

Children’s Prayers

Children’s Prayer Links
(Loyola Press website)


NEW:  RCCDSB 2018-19 Board Theme Prayer, Reverencing the Dignity of the Whole Person

French Language Prayers

Various French Language Prayers
(From website of Office Provincial de l’Éducation de la foi Catholique de l’Ontario )

Viens Allons Prier! Quand la prière résonne dans les murs de la famille…et de la vie… (Organisme catholique pour la vie et famille, 2001.  Good collection of basic French language prayers see page 5 and page 6)

New:  Graduation

End of School Year Prayer of the Faithful
(Suitable for end of year school Mass or prayer service)

Graduation Prayer ServiceSome Graduation Thoughts (Ideas that might help preparing address to graduating students)

Looking Back and Looking Ahead: The Value of Friendship (End-of-year student reflection sheet and prayer exercise on the subject of friendship)

Indigenous Peoples

New:  Orange Shirt Week School Morning Announcements & Prayers:  Sept 25-29, 2017
(A week of announcements, prayers, reflections and links to prepare for Orange Shirt Day as a follow-up to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission).

New:  Prayer for Truth and Reconciliation (Prayer of repentance and solidarity with Indigenous Peoples following Canada’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission)

RCCDSB Kateri Tekakwitha Page
RCCDSB World Religions Page – Scroll down to “Indigenous Spirituality” section.


Litany of Witnesses to God’s Justice

Leadership Prayers

New:  Maintaining Relevance Today, Tomorrow and Into the Future
(Prayer for Catholic Educational staff and leaders on the ongoing relevance of Catholic education for today’s world)

New:  Walking Forward Together. Prayer for Leaders in our Catholic Educational Community (Liturgy of the word to open a daytime meeting of leaders in local Catholic educational community, including clergy or parent councils, administrators, senior admin etc., with focus on dialogue, honouring one another’s gifts, and walking forward together)

New:  Ste. Marguerite: Model for Leaders in Catholic Education
(Prayer service begins with brief life of Ste Marguerite d’Youville, followed by Gospel, reflection, prayer of faithful, closing prayer. Suitable for board leadership team or directors council meeting. Prayer composed for Memorial of Ste. Marguerite, Oct 16, but easily adapted for use at other times)
New:  Integrating the Catholic Faith Through Critical Analysis of the Arts, Media and Technology
(Prayer for Catholic Educators to begin school year, focusing on integrating Catholic faith through a critical analysis of the arts, media & technology)
New:  Leadership in Demanding Times
(Prayer service with brief adult faith reflection on leadership. Suitable to open leadership meeting)

April prayer in preparation for Catholic Education Week: “Leading in the Light of Christ” (Adapted from OCSTA CEW 2012 Advance Kit)

A New Year of Leading and Serving (Prayer service for leaders in Catholic schools at the beginning of a new calendar year)

Prayer for Leaders in Catholic EducationWaiting in the Upper Room Staff Prayer ServiceServant Leadership Prayer ServiceLiving and Working as Church

Life (Prayers to Support Life)

New: Thank You for the Gift of Me
(Suitable for the end of Theme Three unit in the Fully Alive Program)

Prayer for Life (Prayer service to be used before Relay for Life or other activities in support of life)

Prayer for Life by Pope John Paul II


New:  Fatima 100 Year Anniversary Morning Prayers: Wed Oct 11, Thurs Oct 12, Fri Oct 13, 2017
(Each day briefly recounts events leading up to and including Fatima apparitions, their messages, Miracle of the Sun, and finishes with a prayer.)

New:  Following Jesus With Mary (Prayer service to open a PA Day, PLC or staff meeting. Reflects on the role of Mary in early Church and in our lives.)

Prayer to Our Lady Before a Staff Meeting
Prayer to Mary, Mother of Hope (Adapted from longer prayer in Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation on Jesus Christ Alive in His Church, the Source of Hope for Europe , 2003)

Teaching the Rosary to High School Students (From Practical advice for teaching the Rosary, with helpful links resources related to Mary)

Marian Prayers
(Good online collection of classical, papal, litany, novena and other Marian prayers from the University of Dayton’s Mary Prayer Page)
Rosary and Living Rosary Outlines
(See October and May sections of Monthly/Seasonal Prayer Page)

Adult Faith Presentations on Mary (See Adult Faith Page, under “Mary”)


NEW:  Living God’s Mercy
(Prayer highlighting our call to be the merciful hands and feet of Jesus. Suitable for elementary and secondary use.)

Natural Disasters

Renfrew County CDSB Resources

Day of Hope Prayer ServiceCatechism Selections for Addressing Questions Arising From DisastersAlgonquin & Lakeshore CDSB ResourcesALCDSB Resources (Fifteen pages of helpful prayer resources and readings in response to disasters)

Prayer Service of Solidarity (In Light of  Tsunami Disaster)
Sudbury CDSB Prayers
Prayers for Victims of Hurricane Katrina (adaptable to other circumstances)

CARFLEO Tsunami (2005) ResourcesFrom U.S. Bishops’ ConferencePrayer to Blessed Virgin Mary,Prayer for Intercession of the Saints,Prayer to Blessed TrinityRoman Catholic Diocese of Joliet, IllinoisHurricane Katrina Prayer SuggestionsSolidarity/Relief Effort Pages and Links
Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace
Caritas Intarnational

New Evangelization

New:  Putting out into the Deep. A Prayer for Catholic Educators in the New Evangelization
(Suitable for opening a staff meeting, PA day or conference)


Prayer Service for Peace
(Can be used as commemoration of September 11th or Remembrance Day)

Reflection on Peace

Professional Activity Prayer Services

New:  Following Jesus With Mary
(Prayer service to open a PA Day, PLC or staff meeting. Reflects on the role of Mary in early Church and in our lives.)

New:  You Are the Light of the World
(Short prayer service to open PA day, staff, leadership or school council meeting)
New:  Claiming our Role as Global Stewards: Closing the Gaps (Short prayer service to begin Oct 11, 2013 PA Day, suitable for PLC/Staff Meeting)

 Planting in Hope, Nurturing in Love
(Short prayer service to begin a PA day, PLC or Staff Meeting)
 Faith, Professionalism and Wellness
(5 minute prayer service to open a PA session or day)
Wellness Caring for God’s Temple
(Suitable for opening a PA day or staff inservice)
Making a Difference in our Catholic Schools
(20-30 minute prayer service to open a PA day – can involve 20 or more participants)

The Gift of Catholic Curriculum (One page prayer service suitable for opening a curriculum inservice meeting)

Educating in Christian Hope (1 page opening prayer for Curriculum inservice or PA Day)

Learning Together in Wonder and Awe (Prayer Service to open Professional Activity Day, PLC, Staff Meeting)

Servant Leadership Prayer Service (Prayer service for leaders in Catholic school systems)

Tending the Fertile Ground of the Heart (Opening Prayer Staff Meeting, PLC, PA Day)

Teaching and Learning in the Spirit (Opening Prayer suitable for PA day or inservice)


Prayer for Retiring Cleaning Staff Member

Retreat Prayers and Outlines

Nurturing the Seeds of the Kingdom
(Prayer to Invoke Holy Spirit at start of a staff retreat)

Staff Twilight Retreat Outline (From EOCCC’s Curriculum Support for Catholic Schools)

New:  Confirmation Retreat Opening PrayerNew:  Confirmation Retreat Closing Prayer (Can be shortened/simplified to suit needs)

New:  Daily Prayer to the Holy Spirit
(For student use in preparation for receiving Sacrament of Confirmation)

School Council Prayers

New:  You Are the Light of the World
(Short prayer service to open PA day, staff, leadership or school council meeting)

New:  Commissioning Prayer for School Council Chairs
(Suitable for use during Mass or as part of a prayer service)
New:  Planning the Road Ahead in our Catholic Schools
(Prayer service regional school council gathering, suitable for strategic planning)
Stewards of God’s Gifts
(Prayer service to open board wide school council gathering)
 Our Journey in Faith (Prayer to open board wide school council gathering)

Charting the Future in Challenging Times
(From School Council Professional Development Evening)

Building a Culture of Wisdom and Peace (Opening Prayer for School Council Gathering)

Catholic Schools:  Educating the Soul (Opening Prayer for School Council Gathering)

Catholic Schools:  Educating the Soul in a Tecnhological Age (Opening Prayer for School Council Gathering)

School Improvement and Safe Schools Prayers

School Improvement and Safe Schools Planning Prayer
(Safe Schools PA day opening prayer)

Catholic Schools:  Safe Places to Grow (Prayer service for school improvement planning, safe schools and student achievement PA days)

Special Education & Special Needs

New:  Special Olympics Opening Prayer

Embracing the Road to Independence (Prayer service to open PA day for EAs and ECEs working with special needs students)

Helpers on the Road to Independence (Prayer service to open PA day for EAs and ECEs working with special needs students)

Prayer for Assistive Technology Teachers
(Prayer before working with students using AT)
Ephthata – Be Opened (Prayer service for special needs educators inservice)

Every Educator a Special Educator (Prayer to begin Special Education inservice or PA Day)

See Also Jan Bentham’s Prayers:
A Prayer for Our Special Children (Prayer asking God’s blessings on our Special Needs Students and those who care for them)

A Tale of a Good Samaritan Teacher (A Parable for Teachers based on Luke 10)

Stewardship Prayers

Stewardship Prayer

Stewardship of God’s Gifts (One page prayer service to begin a PA day)

Stewards of God’s Gifts (Prayer service to open board wide school council gathering)

Strategic Planning

Planning the Road Ahead.  A Prayer for Strategic Planning in our Catholic School Board
(Prayer service to open a strategic planning session for Board Parent Involvement Council)

Planning the Road Ahead in our Catholic Schools (Prayer service regional school council gathering, suitable for strategic planning – slightly adapted from prayer above)

Teacher Inservice/Orientation Prayers

New:  Following Jesus With Mary
(Prayer service to open a PA Day, PLC or staff meeting. Reflects on the role of Mary in early Church and in our lives.)
New:  You Are the Light of the World
(Short prayer service to open PA day, staff, leadership or school council meeting)

Bringing the Light of Christ’s Gospel to the World (New Employee Orientation session opening prayer – easily adaptable to other staff gatherings)

Servants of the Good News (Opening Prayer for Staff PA Day/NTIP/Leadership)

Fostering a Eucharistic Life (Opening Prayer for Inservice/Staff or Leadership Meeting)

Disciples and Citizens (Opening Prayer, TPA Inservice, Curriculum Inservice, Staff or Leadership Meeting)

Reaching out Through our Distinctive and Inclusive Story (Easily adapted as staff prayer for a variety of occasions)

Labourers in a Wondrous Harvest (Suitable for opening a teacher inservice or professional activity for teachers/administrators)

A Year of Growth and Blessings (Prayer for end-of-year new teacher inservice)

Educating in the Light of Faith (Suitable for Inservice/New Teacher Induction)


Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Announcements, 2014
(Morning announcements adapted from resources posted on Vatican’s website)
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Announcements 2011
(From Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2011.  These daily prayer services can also be used individually as prayers for unity among Christians on other occasions)


The Gift of Faith

(Prayer service to celebrate the theological virtue of Faith)Hope

Educating in Christian Hope

(1 page opening prayer for Curriculum inservice or PA Day)Planting in Hope, Nurturing in Love(Short prayer service to begin a PA day, PLC or Staff Meeting)Day of Hope Prayer Service
(Prayer service for natural disasters)

Rejoicing in Hope
(Prayer to celebrate gifts of Joy and Hope in Catholic Schools)
Prayer to Celebrate Love and Family

(Prayer service for Catholic schools)

The Virtue of Love
(2 page school prayer service on the virtue of love)
More virtues-related resources on Virtues, Equity & Inclusivity Page


NEW:  Prayer for My Vocation
(Suitable for use with career day/retreat)


 Wellness Caring for God’s Temple
(Suitable for opening a PA day or staff inservice)
Caring for the Temple
(A practical reflection on what it means to care for the temple of ourselves)
Faith, Professionalism and Wellness
(5 minute prayer service to open a PA session or day)

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Rev. Christopher Mohr, Minister
Funeral and Memorial Service Ideas

Here are sample funeral, memorial service and Celebration of Life ideas used in the metro Denver area by Rev. Chris Mohr. He also officiates or emcees services of all kinds at any location. If you are planning a funeral or memorial service, you may wish to include some of the following memorial words, poems, readings or sermons. From the wording below I normally choose various selections and weave them into the ceremony along with my own words to honor the deceased.

These ceremony ideas copyright 2013 Rev. Chris Mohr. Other ceremony ideas for special circumstances can be found throughout this website. If you are looking for ideas for a loved one’s service, feel free to borrow from this material. But if you are a minister or officiant, please do not just copy and paste these ceremony ideas onto your website.

Memorial Ideas for Prior to the Service:

Decorations: Consider bringing items that have special meaning for the deceased to set up on an altar or table at the front. This can include a catcher’s mitt, fishing rod, macrame, watercolor paintings or quilts created by the deceased, hiking boots, banners, a bowling ball, an old apron. You may wish to include items which evoke memories of times the guests spent with your loved one. Many people also get large poster boards and set up photo collages going back decades.

Powerpoints and Slide Shows: Rev. Chris Mohr has available for rent a projector and a 110″ screen to project any images and soundtracks you create on your laptop. At only half the price of a normal rental, this can be a wonderful thing for guests to watch as they sit and wait for the service to begin. Be sure to include photos that show many different sides of your loved one: as a child, a parent, a worker, a hiker/biker, a sports fan, a humorous person, etc.

Gathering of the Assembly: A Celebration of Life

In a more formal funeral, the minister prays with the close family in a side room, then leads the family out to their seats or pews. In less formal memorial services, the side room is made available to the family if they need quiet time; otherwise everyone is free to mingle with the guests as they arrive. The minister or emcee then simply invites everyone to take their seats as the service begins.

Call to Worship:

Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose. Beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul. He guides me in right paths for His name’s sake. You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and staff, they comfort me. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.

Greeting/Opening Sermon/Invocation:

My friends, I thank you, and the family of ________ thanks you, for coming today to celebrate the life of __________. I especially want to recognize ___________ (names of family members). We come together in grief acknowledging our human loss. This is a tender time, not altogether tragic, but a time when all of us, in one way or another, are confronted with feelings of loss and uncertainty. There will be disbelief and sadness in the hearts of many of us who are in this room. Perhaps it is hard to admit, even to ourselves, how profoundly vulnerable death can make us feel. We celebrate ______’s life even as we tremble before this vulnerability. For we know that whether we die quickly or slowly, we must all face the prospect of having to give up everything we think we are before we can return to God. Our celebration of our love for ___________ cannot blunt these feelings. It is not about feeling better, but about finding strength and support in the sharing of this love, about experiencing fully all our joy and sorrow, and by discovering that love can reveal itself even more deeply in times of loss. And in the depth of this grief is revealed a secret. Life, experienced fully with all its joys and sorrows, then gives its secret to itself.

Funeral and Memorial Prayers

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

May the Lord of Peace send peace to all who mourn, and comfort all the bereaved among us.

God of us all, you love never ends. We pray to you for one another in our need, and for all, anywhere, who mourn with us this day. To those who doubt, give light; those who are weak; strength; those who sorrow; peace. Keep true in us the love with which we hold each other. O God, all you have given us is yours. At first you gave ________ to us; so now we give __________back to you.

Lord of Mercy, hear our prayer. May our brother/sister, _______ , whom you called your son/daughter on earth, enter the kingdom of peace and light. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, one God, forever and ever, Amen.

Memorial Poems and Readings

Isaiah 55:11-12: For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not go back but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the soil, bread to the eater, so shall my word then be, that goes forth from my mouth. It shall prosper within the place where I sent it. For you shall go out with joy, be led forth with peace.

Colossians 3: Christ is all and all in all. Therefore, put on tender mercies, kindness humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; if anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you must also do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts to which you were called in one body, and be thankful.

1 Cor 15: Some will say, how are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come? Fool, what you sow does not come to life until it dies. And for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed. So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.

Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height or depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Kabir: The Guest is inside you, and also inside me. You know the sprout is hidden inside of the seed. The blue sky opens out farther and farther. A million suns come forward with light; I hear bells ringing no one has shaken. For inside of Love there is more joy than we know of. Rain pours down, although the sky is clear of clouds. There are whole rivers of light. The universe is shot through in all parts by a single sort of love.

Song of Amergin (Druidic):

I am the wind which breathes upon the sea
I am the wave of the ocean
I am the vulture on the rocks
I am a beam of the sun
I am the fairest of plants
I am a wild boar in valor
I am the point of a lance in battle
I am the shield of every heart
I am a salmon in the water
I am a lake upon the plain
I am a word of wisdom
I am the grave of every hope
I am the God who creates in the head of the fire
Who throws light into the meeting on the mountain?
Who announces the ages of the moon?
Who teaches the home of the sun?

Swedish Burial Mounds
Rilke: If the earthly has forgotten you, say to the still earth: I flow. To the rushing water speak: I am.

Gangaji: The spiritual path is a path of loss.

Rumi: Love can make you weep like a cloud.

Ram Dass: Being love is a supreme creative act.

Papaji: All is love, everything is love, there is no escape!

Thoreau: we must have large doses of nature to see that which is bigger than ourselves.

Eckhardt Tolle: Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to “die before you die” — and find that there is no death.

Rumi: Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

Mother Theresa: Where there is love there is peace.

Optional Memorial Music Ideas: Break After Greeting/Sermon/Readings/Prayers

I usually recommend two short musical interludes during a service, one after the introductory words and a second break after the eulogy. These can be favorite songs of the deceased, religious music, comforting songs. They can be performed live on almost any instruments and any style or played on a sound system. The first song may express sadness and loss; the second song is often more uplifting and hopeful/inspiring. A third song is often added at the end of a service as the guests depart.

What is a Eulogy?

A eulogy is the heart of every memorial service or funeral. It’s a speech commemorating a loved one who has died. In a eulogy, people who knew the deceased from work get an insight into his/her life as a family person (and vice versa!). A good eulogy relates stories touching and humorous which tell us something about the character of the loved one. It is usually overseen by a minister or emcee who may invite two or three close friends and/or family to step forward and speak. Often the minister delivers the eulogy after learning about the deceased from close family and friends.

A eulogy may contain:

A brief life history of the deceased
Details about family, friends, work/career, interests
Recognition of life achievements
Heartfelt memories, poems, songs, quotes, or religious writings
The most effective eulogies last 2-5 minutes per person and tell different stories from different times in the deceased’s life.
Writing and delivering a eulogy is an honor, a way of painting a picture of the deceased through memories and stories which bring the person back into the hearts of the guests.

A eulogy allows the audience to remember the person — who they were, what they did and what they enjoyed about life. Introduce yourself and tell the audience how you met or your family tie. Share a few things you did together, humorous and touching memories, and what you will miss about your friend/family member. Speak from your heart.

Have a copy of the speech printed out so the minister can take over if you get too choked up to continue.

Optional: Second Musical Interlude

Dismissal and Final Blessing:

My friends, everyone who sits in this room today is a gift to everyone else here. When we are together, just our presence, even in silence, is a deep comfort. Who among us has not passed through the trials and bereavements of life? Some bear fresh wounds in their hearts and feel very keenly the kinship of sorrow. Others, whose days of mourning are more remote, still recall the comfort that sympathy brought to their hearts. To those who were very close to _____________, no one can predict what feelings and experiences will arise in the months and even the years to come. There may be waves of joy and sadness and tears. Everyone who is here is proof that you do not have to ride these waves alone. We know, too, that it is not only grief that we will feel. There will be genuine smiles, and gratitude for the memories that ____ has given us that can never be taken away. Feel free to share those stories, the happy ones and the not-so-happy ones. Or, if you were not a part of ______’s day-to-day life but you know someone here who was, ask them how they are doing, and invite them to Violin and Sheet Music share their memories with you. Be brave but not too brave when the sadness seems to overwhelm you. And practice forgiveness. Learn to forgive your own grief and its symptoms. As the sadness subsides over the weeks and months ahead, remember the important lessons you have learned. For God has given us a mind to seek truth, a heart to perceive love and beauty. And as the Psalmist said, it was through affliction that he learned of God. Let us learn compassion and forgiveness for those around us. We can counsel and comfort those who, like us, are sorrow-stricken. Even in our daily lives, when we see someone behaving in rude or inappropriate ways, we may be outraged, but we can also take a breath and ask ourselves, “What grief are they carrying in their hearts that would drive them to act in this way?”

More Funeral Poems, Prayers, Final Benediction:

And now may the God of Peace, who brought from the dead our Lord Jesus, equip you with everything good, that you may do his will. May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the love of God. Now may the Father grant you strength, through his spirit to the depths of your inner being, that Christ may dwell in your hearts in faith, and that you may be rooted and grounded in love.

Lord of Mercy, hear our prayer. May our brother/sister, ________, whom you called your son/daughter on earth, enter the kingdom of peace and light. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, one God, forever and ever, Amen.

PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI: Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; and Where there is sadness, joy. O, Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Ancient Celtic Blessing

Celtic Cross
Deep peace of the running waves to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the smiling stars to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the watching shepherds to you,
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.


Dear God, look upon _______, deliver him/her and set her free from every bond, that she may rest in your arms. Reveal your truth to those who are bereaved, so that they may meet the days ahead in thy peace. Grant us the grace to entrust ______ to thy never-failing love, and remember him/her according to the love which he/she has bestowed upon us in his/her lifetime. Rest eternal grant to him/her, and let perpetual light shine in him/her. May he/she forever live in your light, as he/she lives in our hearts.

Numbers 6:24-6: May the Lord bless you and keep you, The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up the light of His countenance upon you, and give you peace, now and ever more. Let there be peace for all. Let there be peace. Let there be peace. Amen.

“Thank you again for the beautiful memorial service you conducted for Mike’s mother… …The eulogy couldn’t have been any better – and so many people told us, you really captured Grada’s joyful, independent, unique spirit. We so appreciate all the time you spent with us. Your kindness and guidance made a very difficult time easier to bear.”  – Stef

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