When you or a loved one faces death, the pastors of First United Presbyterian Church warmly invite and encourage you to call at any time of the day or night for help and assistance. We are available to be with family members as you seek God’s strength and support, and to assist you in making funeral arrangements. We warmly encourage you to call the church at 479-442-4411 as soon as possible. If you call at a time when the office is not staffed, the phone message will tell you how to reach a pastor.
As Presbyterian Christians, we think of a funeral service as “A Witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” and a witness to our participation in his resurrection, as we place our faith in him. The following section of the Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church (USA) describes our church’s approach to a worship and memorial service at the time of death.
Christians and Death
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. (W-6.3006)
Planning and Arrangements
Because it is difficult under emotional stress to plan wisely, the session should encourage members to discuss and plan in advance the arrangements which will be necessary at the time of death, including decisions about the Christian options of burial, cremation, or donation for medical purposes. These plans should provide for arrangements which are simple, which bear witness to resurrection hope, and in which the Christian community is central. The session is responsible for establishing general policies concerning the observance of services on the occasion of death. (W-1.4004)
Setting of the Service
The service on the occasion of death ordinarily should be held in the usual place of worship in order to join this service to the community’s continuing life and witness to the resurrection. The service shall be under the direction of the pastor. Others may be invited to participate as leaders in the service at the discretion of the pastor. This service may be observed on any day. A request to observe such a service as a part of the Lord’s Day service or to celebrate the Lord’s Supper as a part of a service on the occasion of death requires the approval of the session.
Form and Order
The service begins with scriptural sentences. It is appropriate for worshipers to sing hymns, psalms, spirituals, 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
- for life in Jesus Christ and the promise of the gospel,
- for the gift of the life of the one who has died,
- for the comfort of the Holy Spirit,
- for the community of faith; making intercessions
- for family members and loved ones who grieve,
- for those who minister to and support the bereaved,
- for all who suffer loss; lifting supplications
- for faith and grace for all who are present; concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.
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.
Alternatives and Options
This service may be observed before or after the committal of the body. In order that attention in the service be directed to God, when a casket is present it ordinarily is closed. It may be covered with a funeral pall. The service may include other actions common to the community of faith and its cultures when these actions do not detract from or diminish the Christian understanding of death and resurrection. The service shall be complete in itself, and any fraternal, civic, or military rites should be conducted separately. When there are important reasons not to hold the service in the usual place of worship, it may be held in another suitable place such as a home, a funeral home, a crematorium, or at graveside.
Service of Committal
Members and friends of the family of the one who has died should gather at the graveside or crematorium for a service of farewell, which is to be conducted with simplicity, dignity, and brevity. The service includes readings from Scripture, prayers, words of committal, and a blessing, reflecting the reality of death, entrusting the one who has died to the care of God, and bearing witness to faith in the resurrection from the dead.
From The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Part II: Book of Order 2009-2011
(Louisville: Office of the General Assembly, 2009).