Task: Funeral re-enactment

Rituals and rites around birth, adolescence and death often have an important role in people’s lives and exploring them with students can help prepare them for life ahead. Here we re-enact one of the most complex rituals – a funeral. Christian rituals around death make a good starting point for looking at the many different burial rites around the world and in other religions.

Resource to download : Resource 1 Order of Funeral Service

Classroom work pre-visit

Activity: Discuss with the students which people are needed for a funeral to take place.  For example: a vicar, pallbearers, grave diggers, a Bible reader, someone to perform a eulogy, a choir, a procession of friends and family. Students each take on a role and think which order the activities need to take place in. They can also research an appropriate hymn/school assembly song to sing.
Activity: Write a eulogy. Study the Order of Service (Resource 1) and explain what a eulogy is. The children can write a eulogy about someone they’ve learnt about in History or a character in a book. They can read their eulogies aloud over the ‘grave’ or during the ‘service’.
Activity: Make props for the re-enactment. Paper flowers can be made to carry to the grave or taken along and laid on a real grave after the re-enactment. Certain flowers are associated with funerals and remembrance eg white lilies. Research the meaning of these flowers.
Activity: Design a coffin. Think about what a coffin could be made from, eg wood, cardboard, willow. Which would the children choose and why?

At the cemetery

Activity: Re-enact the funeral in the central area of the cemetery on the old chapel site (Teachers’ Hints Trail). Ask the children to find a suitable space nearby for the ‘burial’ to take place after the funeral. Show the children the layout of the old chapel and begin the re-enactment along the path leading up to the front of the site (Teachers’ Hints Trail). Make sure students understand where they should position themselves in the chapel area.

Equipment needed:
Props for the re-enactment
Prompt sheets for the service

Classroom work after the visit

Activity: A circle-time discussion of the feelings evoked by the re-enactment. Use the experience as a jumping-off point for writing an account, poem or narrative.

Related themes

Research: The ‘rites of passage’ of other religions, and the ceremonies associated with them.
Research: The colours associated with mourning in different religions and countries. Wikipedia Mourning
Re-enact: Other Christian and religious rites of passage eg christenings, weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Aqiqa. Wikipedia Rites of Passage