A key thing to remember about Presbyterianism, like many churches and faiths alike, is that they can differ on what would otherwise be considered very core tenants. While most Presbyterians believe that deeds on earth will decide the destination of heaven or hell there can be some differing views in this area. Like with many churches participants can take their own views on the contributing factors which decide on the destination of an individual after death. The Presbyterian church has a number of splinter groups who have, over the years, formalised their own personal perspectives on elements of the faith into new churches.
What’s different about a Presbyterian funeral and lead up to the funeral?
While the Presbyterian faith has many traditions and rituals it does not appear to have a unifying approach to conduct at the bedside immediately before death. The Pastor (a holy person in the Presbyterian faith) is usually alerted after death so prior to death is mainly an affair for family and friends to say their final goodbyes. Once death occurs the planning should start with the burial usually occurring relatively soon after death. There is no strict rule on the time frames however delayed burials are relatively rare and cremations are not the norm. The religious parts of the ceremonies are relatively solum in line with normal Presbyterian traditions.
Where does a Presbyterian ceremony take place?
It’s important to note that Presbyterians generally separate the religious and the personal elements in the ceremony. When in the church the focus is on the general loss but it’s talked about in mainly religious and not individual terms. The pre religious viewing can be located in most of the usual places with home, a funeral home and the church all options. These will usually be very solemn but the traditions can vary from church to church with local traditions and local rituals varying in influence. Presbyterian services are usually, in most respects, relatively minimalist, with little in terms of icons, statues or ornaments. Some hymns may be sung and prayers may be said however this element is usually short.
What normally happens at a Presbyterian funeral and what do non observers need to know?
Ordinarily there will be a viewing, followed by a church service followed by burial in the Presbyterian tradition. These are usually relatively solemn occasions with little in the way of special features or rituals which would stick out as very noticeable. The key thing to remember is that the Presbyterian faith values the concept of moderation and this means very few flowers or additional elements around the casket. In terms of clothes and other elements to be aware of the usual rule of black for the main mourners and dark or plain colours (few if any bright colours) for those attending ceremonies. While there’s a lot of common ground between Presbyterian congregations it’s still a good idea to consult with either the family or the local organisers/pastor for guidance if the matter is of high importance.