Anglican/Episcopalian Funeral Traditions

While there are differing views among different churches, Episcopalians commonly believe that faith in Jesus Christ will lead to eternal life with God. Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ will be bound to eternal death without God. Neither Heaven nor Hell is understood as a literal place, but rather as a state of being. On the day of judgment, those who have faith in Christ will be resurrected to eternal life, while those who do not have faith will be condemned to eternal death.

After death has occurred

When an Episcopalian dies, a priest should be contacted immediately to help in planning the funeral service and identifying an appropriate funeral home. In many communities, the clergy will help plan and direct the funeral.

Organ donation/donation to medical research

Organ donation is acceptable in the Episcopalian faith.

Cremation

Cremation is acceptable in the Episcopal faith, and will not interfere with holding a traditional Episcopalian funeral.

To learn about cremation, see our article Cremation.

To learn about burial, see our article Burial.

Embalming

Embalming is acceptable in the Episcopalian faith.

To learn about embalming, see our article Embalming.

Viewing, wake, or visitation before an Episcopalian funeral

The option of holding a viewing before the funeral is up to the family of the deceased. The viewing can be held in the day or days before the funeral or immediately before the funeral service, and can be open to all mourners or limited to close family members.

To learn more about viewings, wakes, and visitations, see our article Viewing, Wake, or Visitation.

When to hold an Episcopalian funeral

The funeral should be held within two or three days of the death.

Where to hold an Episcopalian funeral

The funeral can be held at a church, at a funeral home, or at a chapel at the cemetery.

The Episcopalian funeral service

The funeral can either be its own service, or a part of the "requiem," which is a service that includes the taking of Holy Communion.

The priest will officiate the service, which may include the reading of scripture from the Book of Common Prayer, hymns, a sermon, and a eulogy by a close friend or family member. If the body is not present for the service, a memorial service will be arranged. 

To learn about the differences between funerals and memorial services, see our article Decide to Have a Funeral, Graveside Service, or Memorial Service.

Specific Episcopalian funeral arrangements

The casket should be closed during the service. If the body is not present for the service, a photograph of the deceased may be placed at the front of the room. As church customs may vary, it is best to speak with your priest about specific arrangements. Music appropriate for a worship service may be included.

Interment

Generally, all guests are welcome to attend the interment. Whether the body will be buried in the ground or entombed in a mausoleum, or whether ashes will be interred in a columbarium or buried in an urn garden, the ceremony will be led by the priest. The priest will recite prayers and commit the body or cremated remains to the earth.

To learn more about graveside funeral services, see our article Graveside Services.

If you will be attending a graveside service, see our article Graveside Service Etiquette.

Post-funeral reception

After the interment, there may be a reception at a family home or at the church.

If you are planning a post-service reception, see our article Post-Funeral Reception.

If you will be attending a post-service reception, see our article Post-Funeral Reception Etiquette.

Mourning period and memorial events

There is no prescribed mourning period or memorial events for Episcopalians.