The time of a death is a time when those left behind may experience a particular witness of the church through affirmation of faith and the expression of hope in the grace, love, and fellowship of God.
The most suitable place for a memorial service for one who has died is in the ordinary worship space of the church, where praise and prayer has been regularly offered, and the word and sacraments shared.
The sanctuary of Eastminster Presbyterian Church is available for such a memorial service at no charge to any church member, member of a church member’s immediate family, or anyone that has formerly held membership at Eastminster or its precedent congregations. Upon approval of the Session, others are invited to use the sanctuary in accordance with the principles set herein for a charge equaling one-half of the extant rate for a wedding.
The funeral service is seen as a service of worship, where God is both subject and object, and where the assembled congregation has some corporate role. Worship bulletins or other materials may be provided to assist the congregation in its role.
The primary officiant for a funeral at Eastminster is the installed Pastor, or one serving in that role. In the unavailability of that Pastor, or for other compelling reasons, upon concurrence of the Pastor, another Minister may be invited by the Session to officiate. Upon concurrence by the Pastor, the Session may invite other persons to assist in the service. Those who lead or assist with a service will do so in accordance with the principles set herein. The service is under the sole direction of the officiating Minister.
If there is a casket, it shall be closed at any time it is in the nave. It is appropriate that the casket be covered with the church’s funeral pall, which represents a baptismal garment—the symbol of the Christian faith professed by the deceased. Alternately, the casket may remain uncovered. The casket may not be covered by other symbols (i.e. a national flag) that may emphasize an allegiance held in higher esteem than one’s Christian faith. If, for Pastoral reasons, the casket is open before the service, it may be so in the narthex, but closed before the service begins and the casket enters the nave. The casket may not be reopened anywhere on church property after the funeral service.
The casket may be brought into the nave during the singing of a hymn, psalm, or other spiritual song, or it may brought into the nave accompanied by the recitation of appropriate Scriptural passages. When placed in the front court, it shall be perpendicular to the chancel (rather than to appear “on display”).
Informed by the extant Book of Common Worship of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the funeral shall emphasize praise, the reading of scripture, preaching, and prayer. The theme of the service emphasizes the love and grace of God and hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Sacrament of Holy Communion may be celebrated at a funeral service, upon prior approval of the Session, the assistance of an elder representing the Session, and the offering of the Sacrament to all baptized persons present.
Music, either sung or instrumental, that accompanies the service shall be appropriate to a service of Reformed worship. Special care should be taken that it is suitable to the occasion. The favorite hymns or other songs of the deceased may or may not be appropriate to the service. The final authority on the suitability of any music rests with the officiating Minister.
Hymns, songs, or spiritual songs may be sung by the congregation or on behalf of the congregation by soloists or ensembles of persons. Persons present at the service shall offer any vocal music, accompaniment of vocal music, or other instrumental music. Ordinarily another time and place would be selected for persons to gather to listen to recorded music. Any exception would rest with deliberate and prior action by the Session.
The funeral service may include a time of remembering the life of the deceased. Remarks may be delegated to the officiating Minister or, in consultation with the Minister, be given by family members or someone they may select. In any case, suitability, taste, and brevity should characterize these remarks. This part of the service should not be seen to dominate the time allotted to the service or its character.
Floral tributes to the deceased may be used in the sanctuary, if tastefully arranged so as neither to dominate nor obscure the symbolism of the chancel itself. The officiating Minister is the final authority on the appropriateness of such arrangement.
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