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, Ann Arbor, 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.
- Memorial Service - The memorial service is a service where 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.
- Funeral Service - The funeral service is a service where 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. If there is a casket present at a funeral service, the church requests that the casket be closed “in order that attention in the service be directed to God” (Directory for Worship, W-4.10005).
- Graveside Service - The graveside service is a service that takes place at the burial/interment site.
Location of Service
Either the Nave (Sanctuary) or Monteith Hall 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 Nave seats as many as 600 people. Monteith Hall, which seats up to 100 people, is also available when a smaller number of family members and friends is 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.
- Flowers – In keeping with the simplicity of Presbyterian worship, flowers should be limited to one arrangement (or a very small number of arrangements).
- Fraternal, civic, or military rites – The funeral or memorial service at the church should be considered complete in itself, and any additional fraternal, civic, or military rites should be conducted separately (Directory for Worship W-4.10005).
The church is honored to be able to provide a simple reception following a memorial or funeral service. The Presbyterian Women, with appropriate notice, are able to supply coffee, punch, and cookies. The church does not have the facilities or staff for private food service, and so requests that luncheons and more elaborate receptions be held at another location. A rare exception may be made to this policy, and in those cases the church requests that luncheons and more elaborate receptions be fully catered – from set up to clean up. In addition, the caterer must be approved in advance by the executive pastor. Alcohol may not be served on the church property.
The church has a lovely memorial garden on its property, and the cremains of members (or immediate family of members) may be interred there. There is a $300 fee to cover the cost of a bronze plaque, and to help with the cost of the garden and ground's annual maintenance. At a time convenient to the family, a service of committal is held, and ashes are poured into a designated spot in the garden. Records are maintained about the exact location of burials, but no urns or other containers or markers of any kind are allowed in the garden.
A Printed Order of Worship
The church will provide a printed order of worship for memorial or funeral services held at the church. Ordinarily, the office requires at least two business days to produce an order of worship. So, for a Monday service, all information necessary to produce the order of worship should be in the church office no later than Thursday morning.
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. Weekdays are typically most convenient to the church for funeral or memorial services, as are occasional weekday evenings. Saturdays are often available. Sundays are ordinarily not available, due to five services of worship held each Sunday at the church.
The church is able to make audio recordings of the service, if a request for a recording is made known in advance. Video taping of the service is permitted, though the family will have to arrange for a videographer, and these arrangements should be discussed with the church executive pastor. Extra lighting or other camera equipment is not permitted. The church requests that the service be filmed from the balcony.
Honoraria and Fees
For church members (and their immediate family members), there is no fee for the use of the church facilities. Likewise, for members (and their immediate family members), there are no fees for the services of pastor or organist. Honorariums are welcome. Fees for soloists or instrumentalists vary depending on the individuals, and these fees are the responsibility of the family. If childcare (babysitting) is to be provided by the church for members of the family or their guests, the cost incurred by the family, paid to First Presbyterian, will be $100. A good estimate of how many children will be in childcare is needed several days beforehand to ensure that enough childcare workers are present.