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Hymns for funerals

Hymns are a popular choice of music for funerals in the UK. Traditionally, there are two hymns sung at a Christian funeral service, one hymn to open the service and a second as a closing hymn, though you may wish to choose less or more or include hymns in a different part of the service.

Many people find comfort in including funeral hymns in their loved one’s funeral service, even if their loved one was not religious. Music can be a powerful factor when processing grief, and hymns can bring comfort and joy at times of loss by bringing a community together to sing and remember their friend or family member.

 

Popular funeral hymns

Several hymns have remained popular song choices for funerals over the years. Choosing funeral hymns for a loved one’s funeral can be a daunting prospect, especially if you are non-religious yourself, so we’ve listed some of the most popular funeral hymns in the UK to help you decide. If you’re still unsure which hymns are most appropriate, you may find discussing the decision with other family members helpful.

The most popular funeral hymns in the UK include:

Jerusalem
Jerusalem is a musical version of a poem written in 1804 by William Blake, with the music added by composer Sir Hubert Parry in 1916. Jerusalem is one of the most popular funeral hymns in the UK as well as many other occasions; it was sung at Prince William’s wedding, as the opening hymn for London Olympics 2012 and as the anthem of the England cricket team.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountain green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

 

Amazing Grace
Amazing Grace is a famous 18th century hymn written by John Newton, often accompanied by bagpipes at funeral services. The lyrics focus on finding peace in death, and are accompanied by a soft, slow melody, making the song a popular funeral hymn choice.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

 

The Lord Is My Shepherd
Based on Psalm 23, The Lord Is My Shepherd is an uplifting funeral hymn, about finding guidance in grief, rather than about the pain of grief itself. The lyrics contain a hopeful message of guidance and comfort; this hymn is popular with both Christians and non-religious people.

The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want;
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; He leadeth me
The quiet waters by.

 

How Great Thou Art
How Great Thou Art is based on a 19th century Swedish poem and set to the tune of a Swedish folk song. It is one of the most popular Catholic funeral hymns as it rejoices in the beauty of nature and power of God.

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

 

I Watch The Sunrise
I Watch The Sunrise reflects on the passage of time and the importance of closeness to God, as it follows the progress of the sun in the sky throughout the day. This hymn is popular for both funerals and weddings and has been used at various memorial services such as the Hillsborough disaster and the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017.

I watch the sunrise lighting the sky,
Casting its shadows near.
And on this morning bright though it be,
I feel those shadows near me.

 

Abide With Me
Abide With Me is a Victorian hymn written by Henry Francis Lyte in 1847. The hymn is a prayer to God, asking him to stay with him in death as he did in life, and is often sung at military services, sporting events and public funerals.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

 

The Old Rugged Cross
The Old Rugged Cross is about being dedicated to Jesus Christ and serving God, written in 1912 by George Bennard.

And I'll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
And I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

 

Lord of All Hopefulness
Lord of All Hopefulness is a 20th century Christian hymn written by Jan Struther, popular at both funerals and weddings. The hymn is often sung at the beginning of a funeral service to the melody of Irish folksong, Slane.

Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
Whose trust, ever childlike, no cares can destroy,
Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.

 

Be Not Afraid
Be Not Afraid is a modern, uplifting funeral hymn about finding strength and comfort in God through times of difficulty and despair.

Be not afraid,
I go before you always,
Come follow Me,
And I shall give you rest.

 

Uplifting hymns for funerals

A more upbeat, uplifting funeral hymn might be more fitting, particularly if the service is intended to be a celebration of life, rather than a more sombre occasion.

Happy and uplifting funeral hymns include:

- All Things Bright and Beautiful
- Morning Has Broken
- Lord of the Dance
- Shine Jesus Shine
- Great Is Thy Faithfulness
- The Day Thou Gavest Lord Has Ended
- Going Home

 

Whilst funeral hymns have traditionally been the funeral music of choice, TV theme tunes and humorous and happy funeral songs have become some of the most popular funeral songs in recent years. If would prefer funeral music with no religious meaning, you may find our guide to funeral songs and music helpful.


If you are arranging a funeral for your loved one, you may also find our other guidance and advice articles useful.

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