With so many funeral hymns available, where do you start?.

Having sung at over 200 Anglican funerals we’ve first hand experience of the variety of hymns people choose for the funeral of a loved one. So often the family are divided as we all have our favourites, or just don’t know which to choose, so here’s a little help.

Looking back on what we’ve sung in the last few years, here are top 10 most popular CofE hymns.

10 – Dear Lord and father of mankind

Written by: John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892) American Quaker poet, from his longer poem “The brewing of Soma”.

Music tune: Repton by Sir Hubert Parry (1848-1918) in 1916.

It has a wonderful melody, the tune was originally written by Parry as an aria in his oratorio Judith. The hymn has become a favourite for assemblies, funerals and weddings.

Famous uses:

  • Used in the film Atonement

9 – Praise my soul the King of heaven

Written by: Henry Francis Lyte (1793–1847) Anglican minister, based on Psalm 103

Music tune: Lauda Anima by John Goss (1800 – 1880) English organist and composer.

The hymn’s theme’s cover such as the Love of God, healing and forgiveness and has “been praised as one of the finest” hymn tunes from the Victorian period and remains much a favourite of congregations.

Famous uses:

  • Sung at many royal weddings including Queen Elizabeth II’s
  • Sung at funeral of President G W Bush
  • Used in the film Porridge

8 – Morning has broken

Written by: Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965) English author of children’s stories and plays, poetry, biography, history and satire.

Music tune: Bunessan a Scottish folk melody.

A simple hymn written initially for children to give thanks for each day. The hymn was brought to public attention by pop/folk musician Cat Stevens when he released a version in 1971.

Stevens explained on The Chris Isaak Hour: “I accidentally fell upon the song when I was going through a slightly dry period and I needed another song or two for Teaser And The Firecat. I came across this hymn book, found this one song, and thought, This is good. I put the chords to it and then it started becoming associated with me.”

7 – How great thou art

Written by: Carl Boberg (1859-1940) Swedish poet and lay minister and based on Psalm 8. Translated to German and then to Russian, finally translated to English from the Russian by Stuart K Hine.

Music tune: an old Swedish folk tune.

The hymn was popularised by George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows during the Billy Graham crusades.

Famous recordings:

  • Elvis Presley
  • There have been over seventeen hundred documented recordings of “How Great Thou Art”

6 – The old rugged cross

Written by: George Bennard (1873–1958) American hymn composer and preacher.

Music tune: by George Bennard

Loved for its lilting melody and words of personal trust in the cross of Christ, “The Old Rugged Cross” remains one of the most cherished hymns of the Christian faith. It has since been included in numerous hymnals and recordings by contemporary artists.

Famous uses:

  • Performed by many 20th century performing artists:
  • Johnny Cash
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Mahalia Jackson
  • Loretta Lyn
  • Willie Nelson
  • Episodes of Dr Who
  • In the film Pennies from Heaven

5 – Amazing grace

Written by: John Newton (1725-1807) former slave ship captain and clergyman John Newton wrote the famous hymn in 1772, for his 1793 New Year’s Day service.

Music tune: New Britain by William Walker (1809 – 1875) an American composer, this has become the most popular and accepted tune for the hymn.

It’s the simple yet powerful message of forgiveness and mercy from God, that has made ‘Amazing Grace’ one of the most versatile and enduring hymns in the world. The hymn was rated as ‘One of the best hymns of all time’ by Classical Music.

Famous uses:

  • The anthem of the civil rights movement across the USA and more
  • Aretha Franklin recorded on her best-selling gospel album
  • A broadway musical has been written about the hymn in 2015

4 – The Lord’s my shepherd

Written by: commonly attributed to the English Puritan Francis Rous (1581 – 1659), based on Psalm 23 and published in the Scottish Psalter of 1650.

Music tune: Crimond by Jessie Seymour Irvine(1836-1887), daughter of Church of Scotland minister.

The tune is easy to follow if you don’t already know it, and sits well during the service.

Famous uses:

  • The wedding of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip

3 – All things bright and beautiful

Written by: Cecil Frances Alexander (1818–1895) Anglo-Irish hymn writer and first published in 1848 in Mrs Cecil Alexander’s Hymns for Little Children.

Music tune: by William Henry Monk (1823 – 1889) English organist written in 1887.

The tune is familiar to many as it was often sung during school assembly in the 20th century.

Famous uses:

  • The writer James Herriot used lines from the hymn as titles for his series of veterinary story collections
  • Episodes of Vera
  • In the film The Land Girls
  • In the film Brassed Off

2 – Abide with me

Written by: Henry Francis Lyte (1793–1847) Anglican minister. The opening lines are referenced to Luke 24:29

Music tune: Eventide by William Henry Monk (1823 – 1889) English organist written in 1861.

The hymn is a prayer for God to remain present with the speaker throughout life, through trials, and through death. The original poem had 8 verses. However, the hymn now is normally sung in 3 or 4 verses, and is very popular across many Christian denominations.

Famous uses:

  • At Remembrance Day services
  • At the FA Cup Final
  • At the opening ceremony of The 2012 Summer Olympics in London
  • Episodes of Dr Who
  • In the film Steel Magnolias
  • In the film Oliver Twist

1 – Jerusalem

Written by: William Blake (1757-1827) in 1804 and published 1808. The poem featured in the preface to his epic ‘Milton-a Poem’.

Music tune: by Sir Hubert Parry (1848-1918) in 1916.

‘Jerusalem’s’ popularity is largely due to the wonderful tune by Parry. Known as a ‘good sing’, it’s a rousing, uplifting hymn that carries the singers along. As the hymn has been very popular since 1917 it is embedded in the psyche of many. Even if you have not sung it before, it’s surprising how much you know once you begin to sing it!

Famous uses:

  • National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies adopted it as the Women Voters’ Hymn
  • At the end of The Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall
  • At the end of the Labour Party Conference
  • At the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton
  • At the opening ceremony of The 2012 Summer Olympics in London