Funerals at St John’s

Funerals are an important ministry at St John’s and our ministers are experienced at taking large and small services. We welcome all families who would like to arrange a funeral here, whether they have an existing connection to St John’s or not.

If you are reading this page because someone you love has just died, please accept our sympathies. We know that this is a difficult time for you and we sincerely look forward to assisting you. Christianity is a faith founded upon Jesus of Nazareth. Christians believe that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead and that all who die in Christ will be raised to life with Jesus. For Christians, a funeral is therefore a time of hope, as well as a time of grief. The Anglican funeral service is an opportunity to remember and give thanks to God for all the blessings of the person’s life. We pray for and support each other in grief, and lay the person’s body to rest. 

If you would like to hold a funeral service at St John’s please contact us, either before or after speaking to a funeral director.


What happens in a funeral service at St John’s Newcastle?

A funeral service at St John’s usually follows a standard structure, but there is a lot of room for flexibility around that outline. The Christian church has been conducting funerals for 2,000 years, so we do have some experience in the elements that combine mourning and the celebration of the gift of someone’s life.

Can I pre-plan my funeral with St John’s?

We regularly work with a range of Newcastle funeral directors. We know that many people organise the payment of their funerals and speak to funeral directors about some of their wishes regarding the arrangements. For some people, it also helps to have some time to think about what elements they would like to have in their funeral, to save their family having to make decisions about the service as they are grieving. Our ministers are very happy to speak to people about their wishes for their funeral when the time comes. We will record those wishes and work with your family to implement them as far as possible.

What kind of music can be played at a funeral?

Music is often an important part of these services. At St John’s we welcome all styles of music, and funerals have been celebrated with music from classical, jazz, blues and rock! Of course, we expect that the words of songs played in the church will not conflict with what Christians believe about life and the way that God wants us to live. If you have any questions about what kind of music can be played at a funeral, please contact us to discuss your options. There are a number of places that music can be played in the service usually there is some music played as guests gather at the beginning of the service, often there is music played after the address (sometimes accompanied by a slide-show of photos), and music is often played at the end of the service as the coffin and guests leave the church.

There are a number of places that music can be played in the service. Usually there is some music played as guests gather at the beginning of the service, often there is music played after the address (sometimes accompanied by a slide-show of photos), and music is often played at the end of the service as the coffin and guests leave the church.

What about hymns?

St John’s has the oldest pipe-organ in Newcastle, reaching 150 years of age in 2016. If you would like some hymns played during the service, you are welcome to do so. Our organists are usually available to play for funerals on week-days. If you are expecting a very small number of guests at the service, or if your family and friends probably wouldn’t know hymns, we often encourage the reading of a Psalm (a poem) from the Bible instead of getting the congregation to sing a hymn. Two of the most common options are shown below (section 2). If you choose to read a Psalm instead of singing a hymn, our organists can still play music before and/or during the service. Often, funeral families specify that they want uplifting and joyful pieces played. Don’t worry – we love to fulfil that request!

The most commonly-used hymns for funerals at St John’s include:

  • Abide with me
  • Amazing Grace
  • The Lord is my Shepherd (this hymns is based on the text of Psalm 23, so it is not used if this psalm is being read by the congregation)
  • Guide me, O thou great Redeemer (also sung as ‘Guide me, O thou great Jehovah)
  • O God our help in ages past
  • Lord of all hopefulness
  • Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven

Funeral car leaving St John's Church, Cooks Hill

What is the ‘Order of Service’?

The programme of the parts of the service is called an “Order of Service”. Your funeral director will usually print those for you after you have discussed the parts of the service with the minister conducting it.

The outline of the service

1. The gathering and welcome

Usually some music is played as guests are seated in the church. The earliest family and friends usually start coming about 30 minutes beforehand, with most guests arriving 10-15 minutes before the service begins. During that time, the organist can play for your guests as they are seated, or you can have your own recorded music played.

At the beginning of the service, the close family has the option of entering all together, or each making their own way in. That kind of thing is usually decided on the day depending on how people feel. If the family all enters together, the funeral director may ask the congregation to stand as a sign of love and respect for those who are mourning.

After the music ends, the minister conducting the service welcomes everyone and usually everyone reads a prayer together. This prayer asks God to support us and help us in our grief.

dsc_2714_30625865495_o_1800pxRSL Commemoration

If the deceased served in the armed forces, the RSL may organise a short act of commemoration, including a short poem, the playing of the Last Post, and the Reveille, and a minute’s silence.

2. A hymn or psalm

Two of the most commonly-read Psalms at this point are Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd), or Psalm 121 (I shall lift up my eyes to the hills).

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd: therefore can I lack nothing.

He shall make me lie down in green pastures: and lead me beside still waters.

He shall refresh my soul: and guide me in right pathways for his name’s sake.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me: you have anointed my head with oil and my cup shall be full.

Surely your goodness and loving-kindness will follow me all the days of my life: and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Psalm 121

I lift my eyes to the hills: from where is my help to come?

My help comes from the Lord: the maker of heaven and earth.

The Lord will not allow your foot to slip: your guardian will not sleep.

See, the one who watches over Israel: shall neither slumber nor sleep.

It is the Lord who is your keeper: the Lord is your shelter on your right hand, So that the sun shall not strike you by day: neither shall the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil: it is the Lord who shall guard your life.

The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in: both now and for evermore.

3. The Readings

At a church funeral, at least one reading from the Bible is read. In our faith, we trust in God who loves us from before we are born, and who holds us through all of our life. For those who die with true love for God, we believe that this love will never end, and that God gives eternal life for those who trust him. Jesus Christ taught people to believe and trust in him and assured them of God’s eternal love. The Bible readings that are usually used at a funeral usually touch on those themes, and encourage people to live with faith, hope and love.

As well as readings from the Bible, other readings can be included, such as poetry. Similar to the guidance on music, the words of any poetry read as part of a service church must of course be in line with the way that the Christian faith calls us to live and believe. The Readings are usually done by family and friends at the service.

4. Tributes and Eulogies

An important part of gathering for a funeral is to remember before God the life of someone who meant something special to us. At this point in the service a eulogy or eulogies (also called tributes) are read. When you meet to discuss the service with the priest, they will give you any help they can in what to include in the eulogy.

When writing tributes, think about the congregation present and what will interest them from the person’s life. Sometimes families feel that they need to include dates of every semi-important event in the deceased person’s life. But those kinds of details are forgotten in a moment. What people take away is the sense of who a person was and the way that the speaker remembers them, and what they have learned from them. Usually that is best illustrated with a few events from the person’s life, and a story that people will relate to.

In our experience of taking funerals, the most powerful eulogies are shorter, rather than longer; story-based, rather than dates-and-history-based; and usually they include a story that will make your guests smile as they remember what was important to you from that person’s life.

It’s a good idea to include something explaining why we are having the funeral at St John’s. Why are we meeting here? How did the person’s faith show in their life?

5. The Address

At this point, the priest will speak and will usually try to reflect on something from that person’s experience of life in terms of faith and spirituality. The address (also called the homily, or the sermon) will encourage those listening to go forward with hope into the future.

6. Music for Reflection – DVD ‘slide-show’ – Floral tribute

Now there is space for reflection before the final prayers. That’s usually done through playing a familiar piece of music (probably something soft and quiet to allow people the space to think). Often the music is accompanied with a ‘slide-show’ of photos played through our video projection and sound system. In our experience of Newcastle and Hunter Valley funeral directors, we find that they will usually organise the production of this video. At this point, you may have family members invited to come to the front of the church, and lay flowers on the coffin as an act of farewell.


7. Final prayers

As the service draws to a conclusion, final prayers are offered. This will include asking God to strengthen and bless those who mourn at this time. We commit the person to God’s presence at this point and the whole congregation is prayed for with a blessing at the end of the service.

8. Conclusion

At the end of the service, pall-bearers – either organised by the funeral director, or members of the family and friends – will come forward to take the coffin from the church as final music is played. Close family leave the church first, following the coffin which is placed in the hearse. If you have organised a funeral reception (also sometimes called a ‘wake’) either at someone’s home, a cafe, or in our church hall, guests will join you there.

What are the fees involved?

To be able to continue ministry here and because of the costs of upkeep of such a beautiful historic building, we must charge for funerals held at St John’s. The basic fees are:

  • Minister’s fee: $250
  • Church upkeep fee: $200

Also, you have the option of:

  • Organist: $100
  • Church hall hire for Reception after the service: $150
  • Flowers (by arrangement)

These fees are paid as part of the package provided by your funeral director. We have experience working with a number of Hunter Valley and Newcastle funeral directors. You don’t need to organise to pay those fees directly to the church.

Funeral Receptions in the Church Hall

St John’s is now in a position to be able to provide you with food and drink packages provided by well-known local firm Hot Rock Events & Catering. Your event after the church service can be in the church grounds or in the historic St John’s Church Hall. Hot Rock has been established for over 12 years by Michael & Melissa Carroll and has won numerous awards from the restaurant and catering association. Please visit their web site or phone (02) 49271218 or 0422 417 685 for all details pertaining to food and beverage packages. Menus cover cocktail parties, buffets or plated meals. 

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