Abbey Church of Scotland

North Berwick

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At a Time of Loss - some helpful advice if you are facing bereavement

A bereavement is always a difficult and confusing time – even if it was expected. We hope that these brief notes may help you through this time, from your sense of loss to hope.

The funeral fndertakers you ask to deal with the arrangements will take care of many of the practical things, and also be able to give you advice and help.

You will want to decide what sort of service(s) you wish. The main choices are:

  • A burial, or a cremation?
  • A service in the church? This can either precede the burial/cremation, or follow it as a thanksgiving service. If a church service is first, the burial or cremation will be a simple committal.

If you would like to arrange a burial, the local cemeteries are in North Berwick or Dirleton. Occasionally, burials take place further away, if there is a family connection with somewhere else.

At the graveside, family members or friends may wish to hold the cords (up to 8 of them) as the coffin is lowered. A graveside service is normally quite simple, and fairly brief. Soil or flowers are sometimes scattered on the grave.

If cremation is an option, there are three places in Edinburgh: Seafield, Mortonhall, and Warriston. Seafield has only one chapel, Mortonhall and Warriston have two chapels each, the smaller of which (the 'Pentland' Chapel at Mortonhall and the 'Cloister' Chapel at Warriston) only allow for a 20-minute service. The large chapels at each place allow more time.

It is helpful to the Minister if the family can provide some background information about the deceased person, and also the names of the family members (for the prayers). It can be useful if you write this down. Sometimes, the family may wish to write their own tribute to the person, to be read by either the Minister or by another friend.

In a church service, and at a crematorium chapel, there are usually hymns sung. For the crematorium, there can be one or two; in the Church, usually two or three. Some suggestions are given below.

If there is a particular reading which you would like, let the Minister know this; otherwise, he will choose something appropriate.

Family members or friends are welcome to take part in the service if they wish e.g. by saying a few words, or reading a poem etc. (this can often add a personal touch). Any (grand-)children may also wish to write a few words, which someone can read out.

You may wish a particular piece of music played as people gather for and leave the service. If this is organ music, please consult with the organist. If it is a CD or tape, please provide it in advance (either to the church or the crematorium), with clear instructions about which track(s) to play.

At the end of a church or crematorium service, you may or may not wish to stand at the door to thank people for their support. This can be emotional, but people often also find it quite therapeutic. If you decide to do this, allow extra time (please note that in the smaller chapels at Mortonhall and Warriston there is not much spare time before the next service begins).

Sometimes, the family may wish to give mourners the chance to donate to a charity or medical cause; this can be arranged by having offering plates at the door as people leave.

At a distressing time such as this, a Christian funeral service proclaims the hope of the Resurrection. This is why we can face it with a sense of victory and triumph, not defeat or tragedy, and with faith rather than despair.

The most important thing is that the funeral service brings comfort, help and hope to the bereaved, and is a fitting tribute to the person who has died.

For a service in Church there is a fee of £50 each for the organist and church officer (the undertaker will normally see to this). There is no charge for the Minister’s services or for the use of the church, but if you wish to make a donation this can be done to the church benevolent fund c/o the Minister.

You may like to contact 'Cruse' Bereavement Care who provide support and counselling (0131 551 1511). The Scottish Office also has a very helpful booklet called 'What to do after Death'; it is free (from 0131 244 3581, or from the undertakers).

I hope that you find these brief notes helpful. The Minister is here to provide you with support and comfort, as well as helping to arrange the service.

Suggestions for Hymns

You may decide to choose particular hymns because they are traditional funeral hymns, or because of their favourite words/music, or because they sum up some aspect of the person. Here are some suggestions.

Please note that Dirleton Church and the crematorium in Edinburgh use the 4th edition of the Church Hymnary ('CH4'). Abbey Church uses Mission Praise ('MP')

Abide with me

 (CH4 580)

All people that on earth do dwell

 (CH4 63)

All things bright and beautiful

 (CH4 137)

Amazing grace

 (MP 31 / CH4 555)

Be still and know that I am God

 (MP 48 / CH4 755)

Be still, for the presence of the Lord

 (MP 50)

Be still, my soul

 (CH4 691)

Beauty for brokenness

 (MP 806 / CH4 259)

Blest be the everlasting God

 (CH4 424)

Dear Lord and Father of mankind

 (CH4 485)

For all the saints

 (CH4 740)

For the beauty of the earth

 (CH4 181)

From heaven you came (The servant King)

 (MP 162 / CH4 374)

God sent his son (Because He lives)

 (MP 52)

Great is thy faithfulness

 (MP 200 / CH4 153)

Guide me O thou great Jehovah

 (CH4 167)

I danced in the morning (Lord of the dance)

 (CH4 404)

I heard the voice of Jesus say

 (CH4 540)

I need thee every hour

 (CH4 556)

I serve a risen Saviour (He Lives)

 (MP 295)

Jesus is Lord, creation’s voice proclaims it

 (MP 367)

Jesus loves me, this I know

 (CH4 563/4)

Just as I am without one plea

 (CH4 553)

Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace

 (MP 421)

Lord, for the years your love has kept and guided

 (MP 428 / CH4 159)

Love divine, all loves excelling

 (CH4 519)

Make me a channel of your peace

 (MP 456 / CH4 528)

Morning has broken

 (MP 467 / CH4 212)

Now thank we all our God

 (CH4 182)

O God our help in ages past

 (CH4 161)

O Lord my God (How great thou art)

 (MP 506 / CH4 154)

O love that wilt not let me go

 (CH4 557)

O soul, are you weary (Turn your eyes upon Jesus)

 (MP 712)

Praise my soul the king of heaven

 (CH4 160)

The day thou gavest Lord is ended

 (CH4 220)

The King of love (based on Psalm 23)

 (CH4 462)

The Lord’s my shepherd (Psalm 23)

 (CH4 14)

There is a redeemer

 (MP 673 / CH4 559)

Thine be the glory

 (CH4 419)

Through the love of God our Saviour (all will be well)

 (MP 704 / CH4 562)

We cannot measure how you heal

 (CH4 718)

We sing the praise of Him who died

 (CH4 405)

What a friend we have in Jesus

 (MP 746 / CH4 547)

When I survey the wondrous cross

 (CH4 392)

When peace like a river (It is well with my soul)

 (MP 757)

Will your anchor hold

 (CH4 737)


There is also a section of suitable hymns in CH4 nos. 725-737, as well as nos. 716-724 and 738-749.

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