Funeral hymns are a traditional part of funeral services across many different denominations of Christianity. Most Christian funerals in the UK include one or two hymns, depending on the length of the funeral service.
Whether you’re choosing hymns for a funeral for a loved one, or planning what you’d like for your own send-off, here are 20 popular hymn choices to inspire you:
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, O abide with me.
One of Britain’s favourite hymns, Abide with Me was written by Henry Francis Lyte in 1847 during his final days. The hymn is a prayer to God to stay with him in death as He did in life.
I danced in the morning
When the world was begun,
And I danced in the moon
And the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heaven
And I danced on the earth,
I had my birth.
This modern Christian song makes for a joyous and uplifting funeral hymn. Sydney Carter, who wrote the lyrics, said he was inspired by Shakers of the 1770s, for whom dancing was a spiritual activity.
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.
This musical arrangement of Psalm 23 is one of the most famous Christian hymns. With its message of trusting in God and finding peace in Heaven, it is a popular choice for funeral music.
Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world
Originally written in 1931, this popular hymn was covered by folk singer Cat Stevens in 1971. A hymn of thanksgiving, it’s a moving and uplifting choice for a funeral song.
O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed
This popular funeral hymn is based on a traditional Swedish song and poem. It frequently takes the top spot in BBC’s Songs of Praise favourite hymns list, thanks to its stirring melody and lyrics.
Make me a channel of your peace
Where there is hatred let me bring your love
Where there is injury, your pardon Lord
And where there’s doubt, true faith in you
This hymn is based on the anonymous Prayer of St. Francis and was set to music by Sebastian Temple in 1967. It’s also the official anthem of the Royal British Legion, making it a perfect choice for the funeral of someone who served in the Armed Forces.
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
One of the most well-known Christian hymns, All Things Bright and Beautiful is a Victorian hymn giving thanks for everything God has created.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
This hymn written in the 1770s has become one of the world’s favourite Christian songs, covered by hundreds of artists and musicians. The slow, soft melody makes it a thoughtful funeral hymn for a loved one.
Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.
Set to the tune of a traditional Welsh ballad, this funeral hymn gives a message of trusting in the wisdom and love of God through times of hardship.
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And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountain green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
Based on William Blake’s famous poem about Jesus travelling to England, Jerusalem is a favourite hymn for many different occasions. It was sung at Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton, as the opening hymn for London Olympics 2012 and as the anthem of the England cricket team.
Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
Whose trust, ever childlike, no cares can destroy,
Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.
This 1930s hymn is set to the tune of an Irish folk song called Slane. It is traditionally sung in liturgy, weddings and at the beginning of funeral services.
Guide me, O thou great redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty,
Hold me with thy powerful hand;
This popular funeral hymn is based on a well-known Welsh melody called Cwm Rhondda, meaning ‘Rhondda Valley’. The melody is also commonly sung at rugby matches, earning it the nickname ‘the Welsh Rugby Hymn’.
O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
Inspired by Psalm 90, this song was written by Isaac Watts in 1708. The powerful lyrics are apt for a funeral: “Time, like an ever-rolling stream, Bears all its sons away”.
The day you gave us, Lord, has ended;
the darkness falls at your behest.
To you our morning hymns ascended;
your praise shall sanctify our rest.
This Victorian hymn is a popular choice for funerals for a loved one, with a message of giving thanks for the light of day and trusting in God through the darkness of the night.
Lord, the light of your love is shining,
In the midst of the darkness, shining;
Jesus, light of the world, shine upon us;
Set us free by the truth you now bring us,
Shine on me, shine on me.
A modern hymn written in 1987, Shine Jesus Shine is an upbeat, joyful song of praise. It’s an ideal choice for a religious funeral that still aims to celebrate love and happy memories.
From heav’n You came helpless babe
Entered our world Your glory veiled
Not to be served but to serve
And give Your life, that we might live
Another modern funeral song, The Servant King was written by Graham Kendrick and has become a widely-known and popular hymn for all types of religious service.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.
This unique song of praise and worship was written by Augustus Toplady in 1775. The story goes that Toplady was caught in a terrible storm while travelling through the Mendip Hills and, while sheltering under a rocky outcrop, was inspired to write the lyrics.
In heavenly love abiding,
no change my heart shall fear;
and safe is such confiding,
for nothing changes here
A Victorian Welsh hymn, In Heavenly Love Abiding is all about finding comfort and safety in God’s love. The lyrics draw on key Bible verses that give hope in putting faith in God.
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
be all else but naught to me, save that Thou art;
be Thou my best thought in the day and the night,
both waking and sleeping, Thy presence my light.
The words of this traditional Irish hymn are thought to date back as far as the 6th Century. Translated in the 1910s and sung to the tune of an Irish folksong, Be Thou My Vision is a popular choice for funerals.
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.
This funeral hymn is based on a poem called The Brewing of Soma by an American Quaker poet by John Greenleaf Whittier. It can be sung to several different tunes, the most common being composed by Hubert Parry.
Find out more about planning a funeral and how to pre-plan your own funeral and save your loved ones money.
About the author
With a Masters from the University of Bristol, Jessica Hanson has worked in the funeral sector for several years, following the latest industry trends and writing about end of life planning. Jessica has previously written as a blogger for the Huffington Post, covering topics such as death positivity, understanding grief and how funerals are changing. You can find Jessica on LinkedIn and Twitter.