The Funeral or Memorial Service
at First Presbyterian Church
“The resurrection is a central doctrine of the Christian faith and shapes Christians’ attitudes and responses to the event of death. Death brings loss, sorrow, and grief to all. In the face of death Christians affirm with tears and joy the hope of the gospel. Christians do not bear bereavement in isolation but are sustained by the power of the Spirit and the community of faith. The church offers a ministry of love and hope to all who grieve.”
Directory for Worship, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., W-4.10001
Funeral or memorial services at First Presbyterian Church are always “witnesses to the resurrection” – that is to say, they affirm the hope of the Christian gospel and the good news to all who grieve. Practically speaking, this means that all we say and do in worship should affirm this central truth of our faith.
One of our pastors should be notified as soon as possible after the death of one of our members. Each of our pastors is available to provide comfort and also to assist with the practical realities of dealing with grief and loss. Funeral and memorial services are always under the direction of one of the pastors of the church. Other clergy may be invited to participate at the request of the family.
The memorial service is a service at which the body of the deceased is not present. Interment of the remains has either preceded the memorial service or will occur at a later date.
The funeral service is a service at which the body is present in either a casket or an urn. The funeral is typically concluded with a service of committal at the burial site.
Location of Service
Either the Sanctuary or chapel would be an appropriate place for a memorial or funeral service because those are the places where the community ordinarily gathers for worship and where we are surrounded by all of the symbols of our Christian faith. The Sanctuary seats as many as 700 people. The Chapel, which seats up to 150 people, is also available when a smaller number of family members and friends are anticipated.
Arrangements may be made for the family to receive friends prior to the service in one of the rooms of the church.
The Order of Worship
Presbyterian worship is characterized by its simplicity, and memorial or funeral services are no different: “The service begins with scriptural sentences. It is appropriate for worshipers to sing hymns, psalms, or spiritual songs which affirm God’s power over death, a belief in the resurrection to life everlasting, and the assurance of the communion of the saints. Scripture shall be read; a sermon or other exposition of the Word may be proclaimed; an affirmation of faith may be made by the people. Aspects of the life of the one who has died may be recalled. Prayers shall be offered, giving thanks to God…. The service ends by commending the one who has died to the care of the eternal God and sending the people forth with a benediction” (Directory for Worship, W-4.10004).
Scriptures – The Scriptures are a rich resource to which Christians have turned for comfort and assurance in times of grief. While planning for the service, the pastors will guide the selection of appropriate lessons from the Scriptures and will welcome suggestions which have particular meaning for the family or the deceased.
Hymns – Hymns should be chosen which affirm the grace and goodness of God, and which give comfort and support to those who grieve. The pastor and the Director of Music will guide the selection of appropriate hymns.
Additional Music – The Director of Music will provide suitable sacred music and is available for consultation with the family concerning these musical selections. The appropriateness of musical selections will be determined by the pastor in consultation with the Director of Music. Instrumentalists or vocalists may also be employed, but must be approved by the Director of Music.
The church is honoured to be able to provide a simple reception following a memorial or funeral service. Members of the Ministry Guild, with appropriate notice, are able to supply a hot meal, a light meal, or coffee, punch and cookies.
Times and Days of Services
The church will make every attempt to accommodate the needs of the family regarding the time and day of the service. However, many church activities are planned months in advance and cannot be changed.
For information regarding estate planning, please view the document Guide to a Christian Will presented by the Presbyterian Foundation.