Ringing Church Bells at a Funeral
Although it is not as common in funeral planning today as it was in centuries past, funeral bells are still sometimes played to signal the passing of a loved one. This gesture of respect and mourning is meant to signal to entire communities that a funeral is taking place, and that a moment of silence and/or respect is appropriate at that time.
Because so few funerals take place at actual churches (where the bells are traditionally found) any more, this practice is on its way out. However, if your loved one requested funeral bells as part of their final funeral plans, there are a few ways you can honor these wishes.
Meaning of Church Bells
Church bells have different meanings depending on where you live and what denomination your church is. Traditionally, bells were (and in many cases, still are) used to announce various changes and happenings within the church. Outside of the death industry, they may be rung for:
- Prayer recitation
- To call people to the church
Because there are so many occasions for a bell to be rung, there are different types (ringing versus tolling) as well as different lengths and patterns. Funeral tolls are typically slower and more somber than a bell for, say, a wedding, though many are indistinguishable if you aren’t aware of the protocol.
Ringing a Bell for a Loved One’s Funeral
Few funeral homes are equipped with church bells, and cemeteries that aren’t affiliated with a church or other religious organization aren’t likely to have one on site, either. This means that a traditional ringing of the bell isn’t possible either during the funeral, during prayers, or when the body is lowered into the ground.
For this reason, many people opt to hold funeral or memorial services at their church in addition to (or instead of) a funeral home. Even then, it may be necessary to talk with the church administrators to organize the ringing of the bell. There may be restrictions related to church membership, time of day, day of the year, and other details.
Other Funeral Bells
Funeral bells are not just for religious ceremonies. It’s also fairly common for auditory salutes to accompany the funerals of service members, including military, fire, and police. In almost all of these cases, it is necessary to arrange the salute or bell with the relevant organization and to do so in keeping with their regulation code.
If you would like church bells played at a loved one’s funeral, it’s a good idea to bring the topic up early on in the funeral planning process. Your funeral director or clergyman should be able to help you coordinate services and make the right choices to incorporate funeral bells in the ceremony.
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