Funeral in the Church of Norway

In a funeral we say goodbye to the person who has passed away. We give thanks for the life that was and surrender the departed to God.

Tre personer trøster hverandre ved graven

A funeral in the church is a worthy and meaningful way of saying farewell. A funeral is a opportunity to say goodbye, to give thanks for the life that has been, and to gather to mourn together.

The church provides a personal and valuable framework for the farewell, and is a safe space for those who are left behind in life.

Together, we leave the diseased in the hands of God. In the funeral words of remembrance, texts, prayers, music and hymns are shared. All of this gives witness to the Christian hope, that love is stronger than death.  

Believing in love that is stronger than death

Believing in love that is stronger than death is the basis for any funeral in the church. The Bible contains narratives of human life experiences, in sorrow and in joy, as well as philosophical passages about the diversity of life. Even if some passages are ancient, they may still be relevant to us in our time and age, and they may provide hope and consolation.

The Bible also describes the love of God, and talks of the hope for a new and better world. This gives the funeral ceremony a perspective beyond time and space. Find out more about faith in the resurrection further down.

Together we make the funeral a personal ceremony

A funeral service in the church aims at expressing gratitude for the life of the diseased, and gives hope and consolation for those who are left behind. In the memorial part of the ceremony different stories and memories  from the life of the diseased may be shared.

The funeral service is also a personal ceremony. There are many ways of making it personal, for instance by choosing texts, music and hymns. Read more about how you can make the ceremony personal.


Frequently asked questions about funeral in the Church of Norway

What is a funeral in the church?

Church of Norway has a long standing experience with ceremonies and life rites, both in mourning and in joy. A particularly strong tradition is to mark the last journey of life by a funeral ceremony in church. In Norway a funeral ceremony in church is the most common option for saying goodbye, chosen by nine out of ten persons.

In everyday speech the word “begravelse/gravferd”, meaning burial, is used for both funerals and burials, and in church the two ceremonies are very similar. After the funeral the diseased is either cremated or buried in the church yard.

The funeral ceremony follows a framework called a liturgy. The liturgy sets the order of the different elements of the funeral. The liturgy can be read in the Church of Norway liturgies. The liturgy is also available in English and in German.

In most cases an ordained minister is the liturgist, the one conducting the funeral, but it may also be another person working in the church.


Who can attend a funeral in the church?

The church has a space for you.

Everyone is welcome to a funeral in the church, regardless os age, function, faith, values or anything else.

Close family and friends of the deceased often appreciate the participation of others, regardless of the relationship to the diseased. In a few cases the family chooses a closed ceremony open only to the closest family and persons specially invited. In such cases you are normally notified by the family if you are invited.

Some families also invite guests to a private memorial gathering following the funeral. This may be open to everyone, or only for the closest relatives and friends. Feel free to ask if you are unsure whether you are invited or not.   

What is the conduct at a funeral?

There is no special code of conduct at a funeral, but certain guidelines are common.

You may dress decently, in neutral colours. It is worth a note that many people think they need to dress entirely in black when going to a funeral. This is not necessary, but to dress discretely may be an idea, unless the closest relatives ask for something specific.

Arrive about 20 minutes before the funeral service is to commence. Oftentimes the closest relatives are there in very good time beforehand, to be able to calm down before other attendees arrive.

Show respect both inside and outside the church, be calm and avoid loudness. However, remember that there are no wrong ways of mourning in the church. Smiling, crying, sobbing and laughter are normal reactions in a funeral. But other reactions or needs also have their place in a funeral. Remember that both children and adults are welcome to a funeral in the church.

Who is planning the funeral?

When a person is deceased, there are several decisions to be made in a short amount of time. Among other things, the type of ceremony, the place of the ceremony, and a coffin must be decided upon. One person should be the responsible person for the funeral.

Normally one of the closest relatives is the responsible person. If you are several people very close to the deceased, you need to agree on who is the responsible person. If you need help in this process, the staff in the church may be asked for support.

The church, and possibly a funeral agency, may help you to ensure that your rights and your duties as responsible for a funeral are taken care of.

What does a funeral in the church cost?

Anyone who is a member of the Church of Norway has the right to a free funeral, as long as it takes place in the congregation at the officially registered address of the deceased. This also cover costs for a priest or a deacon as the liturgist, a church musician, and the church building. The burial will normally also be covered, but there may be a municipal fee for cremation. Contact your local congregation if you have further questions about this.

In Norway, certain things are common to do through a funeral agency, such as care for the deceased, ordering a coffin or an urn for the ashes (cremation), obituary (news notification), and transport of the coffin. If there is a wish for additional flowers in the church, artistic and musical contributions in addition to the liturgy, this should be organized or covered by the responsible for the funeral.

This means that the total costs for a funeral depends on the preferences of the closest relatives. Normally, it is the one responsible for the funeral who should cover costs connected to the funeral. In Norway, however, it is common that this is covered by means from the accounts of the deceased, if this is possible. If the deceased was a member of the national insurance register, you may apply for a funeral allowance and funeral coffin transport allowance.  

If I am left behind, who can I talk to in the church?

If you choose a funeral ceremony in the church, you may ask for support before, during and after the funeral itself.

Church staff are educated to provide support through conversations with people throughout their entire lives, also after a close relative or friend has died. A conversation with a member of the church staff after someone has died is voluntary and safe, and can take place before or after the funeral, or even long afterwards. You do not need a prescription, and it is for free.

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