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Picking Songs For Your Own Funeral

piano 1Maybe it’s a morbid blog. Or…

A hope-filled one!

I sometimes ask people if they’d like some input into the songs used at their funeral. (Don’t worry, there is usually a reason I ask; it’s not a random convo-starter.) People talk talk about Bible passages, and often about songs.

A title or two off the lips and a smile illumines the room. People think of a melody which has at some point elevated their soul from a shadow. I’m reading a book by Tom Long.  He says: “The dance of death moves to the music of the holy.”

And funerals are a great place for music. Eugene Peterson said: “When we are normal we talk, when we are dying we whisper, but when there is more in us than we contain we sing.” After the dying is done, it’s time for singing.

So we talk music. You just hope they don’t choose Staircase to Heaven. Please don’t make me say no.

(Here I’m thinking of worship or praise songs. Ones you’d find on the screen on Sunday or in the hymnal.)

So here are mine… for now. Well, actually, these are more like the top 10ish at this juncture in my life. If I die soon (hopefully not, but God’s will be done), whoever is around will have to whittle them down:

In Christ Alone
I, the Lord, of Sea and Sky
The Heart of Worship
What Wondrous Love is This
How Great Thou Art
10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)
Amazing Grace — (maybe throw in some bagpipes on this one for the last 2 verses!)
Breathe on me, Breath of God
Stronger
Be Thou My Vision
Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel
Joy to the World

And I promise you that as soon as I publish this blog I’ll think of several more front-runners!

Oh, and I’m still not sure what Bible verse I want on my tombstone. I’ve played with Mark 13:31 (said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”).  But lately I’ve been favouring Isaiah 40:8: “But the word of our God stands forever.” (Laura, please write this stuff down somewhere.)

There are old stories about funerals in the early days of Christianity. People would leave the church and head to the “burying ground” hoisting the casket above their heads and joyfully singing in a festive parade, marching down the street… singing songs. After all, for the faithful, death is not the closing of a door but the opening of one.

What songs would those family members, and friends, and pilgrims be singing as they carried you along?

Related blog: The Most Sung Songs at Church (Plus, my personal favourite)

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8 Comments »

    • Yes, I love that one. I think it’s been a part of several funerals/memorials at Westminster where I’m the minister. It has a melody that is so haunting and yet uplifting at the same time. Great choice.

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  1. When I was a student at Knox College, I took a course at another college affiliated with the Toronto School of Theology. I have forgotten the college and the professor, but the term paper which I chose to write was an examination of the church’s theology of death, using as the basis a review of every reference to death or dying in all the hymns in the 1972 edition of The Book of Praise. For me, it was a very insightful and helpful study; alas, the paper was never returned by the professor, and having prepared it on what was at the time a novel device (i.e. a computer) which belonged to a friend, in place of my then mis-functioning electric typewriter, I have no copy. It is one of a very few term papers that I did not retain, and the one which I wish I now possessed!

    I do propose, though, that Isaac Watts’ paraphrase of I Peter 1: 3-5, “Blest be the everlasting God …” to the tune Abridge found at #536 in that volume is most suitable. The latter two verses make a powerful statement, especially if sung a cappella at the graveside: “To an inheritance divine He taught our hearts to rise/’Tis uncorrupted, undefiled, unfading in the skies.//Saints by the power of God are kept till the salvation come;/ we walk by faith as strangers here; but Christ shall call us home.”

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