As with most Christian faiths Anglicanism focuses on the prospect of an afterlife which includes heaven. In the Christian faith heaven is not a place but a state of unity with God. While some Anglicans have a belief in the idea of a purgatory where a “cleansing fire” will clean misdeeds before deliverance or entrance into heaven this is not a universally accepted. Within Anglicanism there are a wide number of traditions and indeed different churches can hold conflicting views. Along with this even within some churches there can be differences in interpretation and indeed concepts on tradition can change and shift over time.
What’s different about an Anglican funeral and lead up to the funeral?
As with most Christian faiths the most important thing to do at the deathbed is to make sure that the person close to death is surrounded by friends and family. Apart from this and perhaps some prayers and reflections on life lived there’s very little religious about this stage. Immediately after death however the local religious person (Vicar) is called and plans for the ceremonies commence relatively quickly thereafter. Local religious people (Vicars) have a relatively large role to play in most Anglican traditions so their advice should be sought.
Where does an Anglican ceremony take place?
Pre-funeral viewings are common in the Anglican church and they occur relatively soon after death has occurred. Anglicans are buried/cremated soon after death (2-3 days) so the whole process is relatively swift. The services are usually held at the local church however graveside/funeral home/alternative locations are now becoming increasingly popular. The service itself is the usual mix of prayer, hymns, eulogies and possibly even some music.
What normally happens at a Anglican funeral and what do non observers need to know?
For non-Anglicans the key thing to remember is that very few, if anyone, will expect you to know the hymns, prayers and poems. In some occasions they actually have these printed out for you so you can read these and join in if you like. The only other element to note is that on some occasions communion may be served. Like Episcopalians the bread (which forms part of the ceremony) can be taken by any baptised Christian so join in if you are Christian but be aware some religions can have strict rules about taking communion from other churches. Apart from all this the rest is pretty normal; wear sombre clothes and the giving of flowers is acceptable.