What is a Committal Service?

A guide to committal services and what they can contain.

Last updated: 30 August 2019

People standing at a graveside

What is a committal Service?

A committal service at a funeral is a Christian ritual, most commonly associated with Orthodox and Catholic denominations, though not exclusively. It follows the funeral and involves a selection of prayers and, in some cases, a farewell to the person who has died from the community.

It is often a graveside ritual at the time of the burial, but can also take place in a crematorium following a cremation or at the site of interment for a person’s ashes.

The service itself is meant to commit the person to their final resting place, which is where it gets its name.

What is the rite of committal?

The rite of committal is traditionally the final rite of three associated with a Christian funeral. The first two are the vigil service and the funeral liturgy, which are performed before the funeral and during the funeral respectively.

The rite of committal traditionally closes a Christian funeral and comes when the person is being committed to their final resting place.

What is a committal prayer?

Depending on the denomination of the person who has died, there are a number of prayers that might be said at a committal. The officiating priest will choose appropriate bible readings and prayers, and will usually invite the gathered mourners to join in the Lord’s prayer to end the rite.

Some common committal prayers include those beginning:

  • Because God has chosen to call our brother/sister name from this life to himself, we commit his/her body to the earth/its resting place...
  • In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty God our brother/sister name, and we commit his/her body to the ground/its resting place…..
  • For a burial at sea - Lord God, by the power of your word you stilled the chaos of the primeval seas, you made the raging waters of the flood subside and calmed the storm on the sea of Galilee. As we commit the body of our brother/sister name to the deep grant him/her peace and tranquillity…

How long does a committal take?

The committal service will usually take about 30 minutes. That time may be longer or shorter, depending on the prayers and readings that are chosen. For a clear idea of how long a committal will take you can talk to the priest you’ve chosen to officiate your loved one’s funeral and discuss potential content for the committal service.

What is a cremation committal?

The committal at a cremation is the point when the coffin is removed from view at the end of service and mourners begin to leave. This form of a committal will typically happen at all cremations and isn’t the same as the religious rite.

The religious form of a committal can also take place at a cremation and usually takes place before the coffin is removed, though it can sometimes take place when the ashes are going to be interred somewhere; such as a columbarium.

If the family of a person who has died decides to bury their loved one’s ashes they may also choose to have a graveside committal service following the cremation.

What is a Catholic committal service?

A Catholic committal service is an essential part of a Catholic funeral service and comes with the interring of a person to their final resting place following their funeral. That might be a committal at a burial or a committal before their ashes are interred.

There is usually a different selection of prayers for the Catholic committal service, though the general concept remains the same between Catholic committal services and those of other denominations.

What is commendation and committal?

Commendation is a religious rite that usually occurs just before a committal. It can take the form of either a prayer by itself said by the priest, but it could also be a prayer combined with farewells from the community who are invited to stand by the coffin or casket.

An example of the traditional commendation prayer would be as follows:

Into your hands, Father of mercies,
we commend our brother/sister name,
in the sure and certain hope,
that, together with all who have died in Christ,
he (she) will rise with him on the last day,

The committal service isn’t the only religious rite that might take place at a funeral. For more information about religious funerals, we have a wide range of guides. If you’re curious about the future of funerals then we’ve got that covered as well. We also have a look at some more alternative funeral ideas which people have chosen.