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Thank you, SW Barratt

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15 Popular Funeral Hymns for 2024

Published: September 22, 2023

Music plays an indispensable role in creating the right atmosphere for funerals, wakes, and celebrations. Selecting the correct funeral hymn and/or music displays your special one’s character and overall personality. It can also assist in bringing a tailored look on how you bid someone farewell.

Funeral hymns and classic music remain an important  part of bidding the deceased farewell for some people. However, others prefer more contemporary/tailored music when bidding the deceased farewell.

If you’re after celebrating personal existence or the life of a beloved one, then you’re likely to select the last-mentioned option. After all, it will be a lifetime party! Here are some tips for music/songs at each of the three end-of-life events.

Funeral hymns

Funeral hymns, and readings vary depending on the funeral service you wish to conduct. Even if you’re not after a sorrowful and solemn service, your family members and close colleagues will be mourning, which means that the music and readings played at the funeral service should consider this point.

Remember that the occasion is not likely to go beyond an hour. These events usually take less time, as for the case of crematoria since they feature shorter slots – typically thirty minutes. Remember, you can arrange for two slots, but this will cost you more money.

Church-related funerals can be longer if you agree with the vicar. However, this will limit the amount/type of secular melodies you will play.

Woodland-related burials are likely to take more time. Remember, you can involve an outdoor celebratory event during the summertime to take advantage of the longer days and warmer weather.

You can arrange for singers to play songs or go for live bands. In general, acoustic music is the most preferred for this case and not amplified music.

The wake

The wake gathering comes after the funeral service. It’s primarily conducted at a unique place to host more attendees and have a less sorrowful/mourning environment. While few close colleagues and relatives can attend the funeral, more individuals can attend the wake or reception.

Mostly, grieving opens the path to shared remembrances of the deceased’s life. To enhance the right music in this event, choose the right music, readings and videos which were personal to the deceased. Also, remember to invite the right guests who can share their tributes.

Memorial party

Nowadays, memorial parties are a common occurrence. They’re mainly conducted after the deceased’s funeral service or at the appropriate anniversary, like the departed’s birthday.

Therefore, take the chance to organise this celebration of the departed loved one. Select the right music which was personal to the deceased if you wish to conduct a celebration.

Memorial parties can also include live music. If a close friend or family member plays in a particular band, think of the unique pieces you’ll want them to present at the ceremony. Again choose the right melodies, readings and videos which were personal to the deceased. Remember to include these decisions to allow the family members and executors to organise the music.

Other indispensable things you can add to the list include making the ceremony a non-profit fund-raising occasion by featuring an auction and including entry ticket prices.

What are the most popular funeral hymns?

A vast range of hymns has occupied the list of the most-preferred funeral songs for several years now. However, selecting a funeral service hymn for the departed’s send-off ceremony can be challenging, especially if you know nothing about religious activities.

This post will cover the popular funeral hymns you can consider any time for your special one’s funeral service.

1. “The Old Rugged Cross” – George Bennard 1912

When you think of the expression “old school,” you might imagine something old-fashioned, like an old building or an old car. You would be wrong. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the meaning of “old school” refers to a traditional style of teaching that’s based on memorisation rather than problem-solving. This definition seems appropriate for “Old Rugged Cross,” written by George Bennard in 1912, and became America’s unofficial national anthem for its World War I soldiers.

During the war, Bennard wrote the words and music for the song and performed it at fundraisers. He wanted his work to encourage everyone to fight bravely and defeat evil. When the American forces won the war against Germany, Australia, France, and Italy, “Old Rugged Cross” had become their anthem. Listeners consider this song as one of the best patriotic poems ever written.

It’s the best funeral hymn because it encourages mourners to face adversity with courage and strength. Listeners sing along as it tells them to rise above sorrow and reach heaven.

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged Cross
The emblem of suff'ring and shame
And I love that old Cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain

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

Oh, that old rugged Cross so despised by the world
Has a wondrous attraction for me
For the dear Lamb of God, left His Glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary

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

In the old rugged Cross, stain'd with blood so divine
A wondrous beauty I see
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died
To pardon and sanctify me

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

To the old rugged Cross, I will ever be true
Its shame and reproach gladly bear
Then He'll call me some day to my home far away
Where His glory forever I'll share

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

2. “The Lord’s My Shep­herd” – Francis Rous 1650

This very popular hymn was written by Puritan Francis Rous in 1650.

The poem describes how the poet watched over his sheep by standing guard. His job was to keep watch over them, protect them from wild animals, and give them water. To him, there was no fear. If anything happened, he could quickly alert his shepherds and make sure everything went smoothly. People use the first line of this poem to pray that God will watch over them in times of trouble.

This song is one of the most popular funeral hymns because it comforts those who hear it. Although some people find it too sentimental, most find it touching.

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.

My soul He doth restore again,
  And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
  E’en for His own name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale,
  Yet will I fear no ill;
For Thou art with me, and Thy rod
  And staff me comfort still.

My table Thou hast furnished
  In presence of my foes;
My head Thou dost with oil anoint,
  And my cup overflows.

Goodness and mercy all my life
  Shall surely follow me,
And in God’s house forevermore
  My dwelling-place shall be.

3. “How Great Thou Art”– Carl Boberg 1885

The hymn is considered among the finest works by Swedish composer Carl Boberg. Its text was written by Albert Gisel (who was also responsible for writing the words to “Somewhere Beyond”). In 1895, Boberg started working with the composer Hugo Alfvén, and they completed the composition of this hymn in 1885.

Listeners say this hymn evokes feelings of joy and peace. They feel blessed to know God took notice of them just once. Because of this, they don’t want to miss out on being together again forever.

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy pow’r thru-out the universe displayed!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When thru the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze,

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in –
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

4. “What a Friend we Have in Jesus” – Joseph M. Scriven 1855

Joseph M. Scriven wrote this funeral hymn. He called this piece ‘A simple reflection,’ but people usually refer to it as ‘What A Friend We Have In Jesus’ due to its popularity.

It’s the best funeral hymn since it highlights the importance of friendship. It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor. If you are a good person, you’ll get what you deserve from God. As a result, this helps listeners understand why they should respect other people.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

We weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

5. “Jerusalem” – William Blake – 1804

William Blake (an English Romantic poet and painter) is the one who penned this famous hymn. When he finished the poem, he titled it ‘Jerusalem’. Some believe that the word ‘Jerusalem’ refers to Jerusalem, while others think Blake meant it figuratively.

Some critics say this hymn is about going to heaven, while believers consider it more about Christ coming back to Earth. Regardless of the belief, many people agree that Jerusalem represents all different religions living harmoniously in peace.

“Jerusalem” is often sung at funerals, particularly when a victim died within religious faith. Christians see it as a sign that Jesus will come soon to save everyone. Others believe that it symbolises salvation through Jesus.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?

And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:

Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire.

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand

Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

6. “Abide with Me” – Henry Francis Lyte 1847

Henry Francis Lyte  wrote this hymn in 1847,it is often classed as the most popular hymn for a funeral. It’s believed that the melody inspired a lullaby. Many prefer this hymn during funerals because of the soothing music to which it sets.

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, oh, abide with me

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day
Earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away
Change and decay in all around I see
O Thou who changest not, abide with me

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness
Where is death's sting?
Where, grave, thy victory?

I triumph still, if Thou abide with me
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee

In life, in death, o Lord, abide with me
Abide with me, abide with me

7. “Ave Maria.” – Franz Schubert 1825

“Ave Maria” is another excellent funeral hymn composed by Franz Schubert in 1825. Many Catholics like singing this hymn over deathbeds or during funerals.

The verses represent how believers hope to encounter God soon after dying. There are three stanzas; each begins with Ave Maria meaning Holy Mary.

Hail Mary, full of grace,
Mary, full of grace,
Mary, full of grace,
Hail, Hail, the Lord.
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed,
Blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Thy womb, Jesus.
Hail Mary!

Hail Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Pray, pray for us;
Pray, pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death,
The hour of our death
The hour of our death,
The hour of our death
Hail Mary.

8. “Great is Thy Faithfulness” – Thomas O. Chisholm 1923

Thomas O. Chisholme was a 19th-century American minister. He writes this hymn to express his appreciation to God for saving him and his family from hardships.

He says that this hymn is not only comforting for those mourning but is also inspirational for anyone else to keep on trusting in God. Many Christians like to sing this hymn when someone dies. It brings them comfort and strength.

Great is Thy Faithfulness - by Thomas O Chisholme

9. “Love Divine, all Love Excelling” – Charles Wesley 1747

Charles Wesley was a Christian preacher who believed that there was no better way to worship than singing songs. His words in this hymn speak of loving God without limit. It shows that believers can still be happy even though their loved one has passed away.

Charles Wesley believes that loving one another can bring us closer to God. He adds that this hymn shows the greatness of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of Heav’n to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation,
Enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit
Into every troubled breast!
Let us all in Thee inherit;
Let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its beginning,
Set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive;
Suddenly return, and never,
Nevermore Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in Heav’n we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

10. “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind” – John Greenleaf Whittier 1872

John Greenleaf Whittier wrote this funeral hymn. It expresses the sorrow of people who have lost someone close to them. It encourages listeners to rejoice because Jesus is always near whenever we need him most.

The writer shares that we should remember God’s goodness every time we hear this song. Many people sing this during funerals because it reminds them of their loved ones.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard
Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
Rise up and follow Thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity
Interpreted by love!

With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell Thy manna down.

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.

11. “Morning Has Broken” – Eleanor Farjeon 1931

Eleanor Farjeon was an English lyricist who wrote this hymn in 1931. This Christian song is classed as one of the best for funerals because of its meaningful/touching lyrics.

Morning Has Broken - by Eleanor Farjeon

12. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” – Oscar Hammerstein II 1945

Oscar Hammerstein II was an American lyricist. He wrote this song for the musical Carousel. It works great at funerals to convey the message that God is always present when you need Him.

You'll Never Walk Alone - by Oscar Hammerstein

13. “The Day Thou Gavest Lord Has Ended” – Rev John Ellerton 1870

Rev John Ellerton was a British Methodist clergyman, and wrote this hymn in 1870. This song focuses on celebrating the deceased’s life rather than feeling sad that someone special has left you behind because of death.

The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

We thank Thee that Thy church, unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.

As o’er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.

The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren ’neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.

So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.

14 “All Things Bright and Beautiful” – Cecil Frances Alexander 1848

Cecil Frances Alexander wrote this perfect funeral hymn in 1848. It includes verses recommending to praise God for everything good and bad, making the song very appropriate for funeral ceremonies.

Refrain:
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flow’r that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple-headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

15 “I Vow to Thee my Count” – Sir Cecil Spring-Rice 1908/1912

Sir Cecil Spring-Rice was an English poet, essayist, author, philanthropist, social reformer, politician, and diplomat. He wrote this funeral hymn in 1908 or 1912. It was first entitled “Urbs Dei” or “The Two Fatherlands”, and describes how a follower of the Christian faith has loyalties to their home area and heaven. Most churches play this song at funerals because it gives hope to mourners of what lies ahead.

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love:
the love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
that lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
the love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
the love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there's another country I've heard of long ago,
most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
we may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
and soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
and her ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace.

The original first stanza was not placed with music and was as below;

I heard my country calling, away across the sea,
Across the waste of waters, she calls and calls to me.
Her sword is girded at her side, her helmet on her head,
And around her feet are lying the dying and the dead;
I hear the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns;
I haste to thee, my mother, a son among thy sons.

Conclusion

While funeral graveside hymns have previously been the desired funeral melodies, happy/humorous funeral music and TV theme tunes are now highly played on funerals.

Funeral arrangements and lyrics assist in processing emotions that are hard to express in words. Mourners can display these emotions via popular Christian songs that comfort people during sorrowful moments for individuals of faith.

But, what do all these songs have in common? They were composed during different periods of history, but each song includes a valuable part of the funeral experience. Each piece reminds listeners of the person who died, and not to forget them.

Some songs are preferred because they help people remember a loved one, while others remind friends and family that they need to care for themselves after someone dies. There are many ways to express sympathy, love, and compassion toward the departed. Catholic funeral poems also convey this message through melody and lyrics.

If you found this article interesting, and would like to learn more about how to save money on a funeral, locating quality low-cost funerals, low-cost headstones, natural burials, DIY funerals, free financial help from the Government and charities as well as bereavement support, then please visit Save Funeral Costs™

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