Philosophy & Policy of Christian Funerals
The Christian funeral is a service of worship in which Gods
people witness to their faith in the hope of the Gospel, the communion
of saints, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,
and in which also assurance of Gods love and salvation in
Christ is ministered, especially to the Christian bereaved.
A funeral service at First Presbyterian Church is worship of the
living God. The funeral is Gods way of bringing comfort to
the hearts of those who mourn as Scripture is read and preached,
prayer is offered, praises are sung, grief is expressed, remembrance
is cherished; and it is an occasion in which we, by the grace of
God, bless the name of the One who gives and takes away. The presence
of family and friends around at this time supports and strengthens
the sorrowing ones. The funeral gives thanks for the life of the
one who has passed away and learns from it valuable lessons.
Thus, in the funeral service, we gather primarily
to worship God and confess our faith in a living Savior. Though
we mourn our loss and remember our loved one, our eyes are firmly
fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of the faith.
I. The various aspects of a Christian funeral are:
- The Bible is central, and everything
that takes place must be consistent with biblical principles of
- Prayer in funerals
normally includes thanksgiving for the memory of the dead, one's
triumph in the resurrection of Christ, and intercession for the
family and friends who remain.
- Worshipers are participants
in the service; therefore, the singing of hymns, confession of
faith, prayer, and hearing God’s word are appropriate means of
- Since God is the object
of worship, the eulogizing of a person in the worship service
II. Logistical matters of policy:
- While many would choose the chapel
at a funeral home for the memorial service, others would prefer
the church building where faith is nourished, marriage vows are
made, children are baptized, communion is received, and prayers
are offered by the people of God.
- The practice of "viewing the
remains" is not a part of the worship service; therefore,
if the service is at the church, the casket should be located
where the funeral service will be held and should be kept closed.
- Because fraternal or civil rites
are not a part of the worship service, these organizations should
pay tribute to the deceased at another hour and place.
- Many people choose to have the memorial
service before the burial; others have the burial before the service.
Either approach is appropriate, and the Session makes no recommendation
in this regard.
- Over the years the people of God
have generally avoided the practice of cremation. The Scriptures
teach us that the human body is good and holy and to be treated
with the greatest respect, in anticipation of the resurrection.
Indeed, our Shorter Catechism reminds us that our bodies,
even as they are resting in the grave, are "still united
to Christ" (I Thessalonians 4:14).
- When funerals are conducted at First
Presbyterian Church, staff ministers shall ordinarily conduct
those services in their entirety. Session policy provides that
our staff ministers have sole responsibility and discretion in
carrying out the Sessions guidelines for funeral services.
Only those special requests (regarding things pertaining to the
service itself, whether music or a guest minister) which meet
the approval of the officiating minister are acceptable. Any unusual
request regarding the service itself must be approved by the Session
prior to the funeral. The graveside service provides a place of
participation for those other than our ministerial staff.
- As appropriate, pulpit announcement
on the Lords Day may be made pertaining to time, date, and
place of visitation and memorial service for church members. On
Wednesdays at the evening service, or in Sunday School and other
meetings, announcements may be made for relations of church members
who themselves were not members of our church.
Your ministers have prepared these
brief answers to some of the questions that are often asked when
a loved one is taken. It would be well to read these over when no
need is in sight so that one can have these things in mind when
called upon to make decisions and plans and to seek comfort in the
loss of a beloved family member or friend.
1. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A FUNERAL?
A funeral at First Presbyterian
Church is worship of the living God. The funeral is Gods way
of bringing comfort to the hearts of those who mourn as Scripture
is read and preached, prayer is offered, praises are sung, grief
is expressed, remembrance is cherished; and it is an occasion in
which we, by the grace of God, bless the name of the One who gives
and takes away. The presence of family and friends around at this
time supports and strengthens the sorrowing ones. The funeral gives
thanks for the life of the one who has passed away and learns from
it valuable lessons.
Children and grandchildren learn things
about their dear one that remind them of character qualities they
need to cultivate for the days ahead. The funeral gives a sense
of closure to a life and brings a certain reality to the passing
that may not happen in any other way. Spiritually and psychologically
it is used of God to bring us through the process of grieving. It
is not something to be gotten over with; rather, we are to enter
into it with expectation of Gods comfort and the easing of
our pain through it.
2. WHAT IS THE BEST PLACE FOR A FUNERAL?
No one can answer that question for you completely,
but some suggestions may be made. In the church, there are valuable
memories of sacred events which will serve to comfort the hearts
of those who mourn. The church is the place used for all kinds of
happy experiences and to gather there to receive Gods comfort
is most natural and appropriate. The church is open for you at any
time that you wish to plan your service. It is your church.
The ministers are ready to give priority to holding a farewell service
for your loved ones and schedules can be moved around if necessary
to make that happen.
The funeral home is an attractive and accessible place
as well. Yet, its only associations are with death; but its environment
may hold out comfort for a sorrowing family. You will have to decide
that for yourself.
Graveside services are often used for simplicity and
convenience, and are sometimes the expressed wish of the deceased.
But one need to take into account the special limitations that graveside
services place upon a family. The time must be brief. Sometimes
the elements make it hard for the living who are already in a nervous
condition. It may turn out to be less than the ministry of comfort
than it could have been had it been held indoors.
3. IS ANY DAY ALL RIGHT FOR A FUNERAL?
Yes, except that one should give serious consideration to
avoiding Sunday in that one causes others to do their daily work
on that particular day. Out of consideration for the staff of the
funeral home and the cemetery, it would be well to consider another
4. WHAT DO I SAY WHEN FRIENDS COME TO CALL?
Thank them sincerely for their kindness. Usually they dont
know just what to say. But receive their comfort as from the Lord,
and listen to it for Gods voice speaking to you through them
in terms of strengthening. Dont be afraid to talk with them
about your loved one who has passed away. Put them at ease and they
will be able to strengthen you even more.
5. WHAT PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE WILL HELP ME
The word of God is a source of comfort and strength to you, especially
in the Psalms.
||II Corinthians 5
|Psalm 27 (particularly
death of a parent)
|I Peter 1
6. HOW LONG WILL THIS DEEP SORROW THAT I AM
Be patient with yourself. Sometimes when we think we have overcome
the deep hurt, it returns again at little provocation. But grieve
with each successive stage of your sorrow. Dont be afraid
to weep and to tell God how you feel. Seek Him in prayer and ask
for His comforting help. It may take many months until you feel
like yourself again, but that is not unusual. If the sorrow persists
in a deep and agonizing way beyond that point, it would be important
to speak to one of the pastors and find some special help at that
7. IS A GRAVE SITE IMPORTANT?
Yes. Gods people have used burial places from the most ancient
times. God, Himself, buried the body of Moses. The place of burial
should eventually be marked by an appropriate character description,
so that grand-children and other family members can learn about
their spiritual heritage from visiting it. It will be a comfort
for you to be there from time to time to pray and remember and gather
IN THE EVENT OF A DEATH, WHAT MUST I DO?
1. Call one of our pastors or staff or the church office - (353-8316).
He can help you notify family members, if you need assistance. He
can bring comfort and help to you.
|The Reverend Brister
Minister of Pastoral Care
800-759-8888 then enter 912-7923
Pastoral Care Intern
2. Call a funeral home of your choice. Later, they
will ask you to come to the funeral home to make arrangements for
3. Select a resting place, if you have not done so
already. Keep in mind the coming generations who will be
interested in the life and character of your beloved one.
4. Put your trust in God. Do not ask, "Why?"
- but ask rather - "How can I find comfort and strength from
the Lord that I need now?"
The Christian funeral should be a testimony
to Our Lord Jesus Christ, drawing attention to Him, that the family
may be comforted and non-Christian friends may come to Him through
His grace. A Christian funeral can be a great climax to an earthly
life that has been lived in trust and service to Jesus Christ.