Sample Funeral/Memorial Services
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.
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
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