I recently was having dinner with a group of friends and the conversation turned to what we had all done at work that day. I mentioned that I played a funeral in the morning before getting on with other normal routines of work. Suddenly I was being peppered with questions – “Do you find it difficult to play for a funeral?” “Isn’t that depressing?” “Do you see the body?” “What are funerals like at your church?”

I was surprised at their interest, to be honest. Usually a church organist’s day isn’t the topic of conversation with Washington policy wonks and political operatives. I explained that I actually enjoy playing for funerals. Most of the funerals I play for are not for people I know personally. Occasionally that happens, and the longer one works at a particular parish, the more common it becomes.

 I enjoy playing for funerals because, for one, I know and hope that the music might provide some comfort to those grieving. The family usually selects some favorite hymns of the deceased. I am often heartened to find a hymn requested that I think is less familiar. It’s not because I want to see the congregation flustered in singing an unfamiliar hymn, but rather it shows me that somewhere along life’s journey, the departed or his/her relatives encountered the hymn and it reverberated in some way. There’s incredible depth to so many of the texts in our hymnal. I see funerals as one of the church’s great evangelism opportunities – singing the theology of Charles Wesley and Isaac Watts seems so much more profound and affirming than singing “Drop kick me Jesus, through the goal posts of life” (yes, that’s an actual song).

 A priest I once worked with told me that he took the occasion, every All Saints’ Day (November 1) to review the plans for his funeral. He was especially interested in what hymns would be sung. He said that every year he usually changed his mind on one or two hymns. What seemed like a good idea one year, didn’t seem so great the next year.

Have you given thought to your own funeral? Did you know that at Christ Church, we keep a file of people’s wishes for their own funerals? You can decide if you want Rite 1 or Rite 2, hymns, Eucharist, and all types of other options. Families often struggle during the difficult days after a beloved’s death to assemble a service. They may not be able to recall hymns that the departed loved. And, there are a million other things that the family must deal with at that time. Consider helping your family out, as well as pondering how you would like your life remembered. Some songs are obviously better intended for a reception after worship, in much the same way that some stories are best not shared from the pulpit at your own funeral! But give it some thought and plan ahead. You can start now at http://www.historicchristchurch.org/download_file/view/100/