Do religious hymns remain relevant to people in grief or are they just an accepted feature of church-based funerals? The Reverend Canon Peter Moger, Precentor, York Minster answers.
- Within a funeral service, hymns offer a chance for the whole congregation to join in – in joy (giving thanks for someone’s life), or in sadness (seeking comfort in loss);
- Hymns are spiritually significant because they unite powerful words with well-loved, memorable tunes – words that we sing become part of us much more easily than words we speak;
- Hymns tend to stay with us throughout our life: those we learn to sing as children help form our spirituality;
- The act of singing is good for us: it exercises the upper body, helps us breathe properly and releases endorphins which make us feel good; And perhaps most important...
- Hymns can express very clearly the heart of what Christians believe about life and death.
For many people, hymns are an important part of their religious or cultural background.
BBC's Songs of Praise has a large following, even among non-churchgoers, and for those who were at school before about 1970, the singing of hymns was a daily part of their life throughout their formative years. They have sustained generations of people through good times and bad.
Many of us have particular favourites – sung, perhaps at family events such as weddings and christenings in the past - and it’s good to be able to include these in funerals. From the minister’s point of view, it’s really helpful if a person has chosen the hymns for their funeral in advance.
When choosing, try to balance those hymns which might be special to you or the loved one whose funeral is being organised, and those which are likely to be well-known by the congregation. It’s sometimes a good idea to run the list past the local priest or minister and to ask for their feedback.