Christian Faith and Death
What Presbyterians Believe
The funeral and memorial worship services of the church provide an opportunity for the faith community to proclaim the good news of resurrection, to give thanks for and to celebrate the life of the one who has died, and to gather around and console those who mourn.
“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” (Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Order paragraph W-4.10001).
The Christian funeral and memorial services deal realistically in their presentation of death as part of life and as an inevitable and necessary prelude to resurrection. Specifically in the Presbyterian Church, such services of worship are referred to as the Service of Witness to the Resurrection. They are designed to:
- Affirm belief in the sovereignty of God in death and life;
- Witness to the hope of resurrection;
- Acknowledge the nature of humanity as finite;
- Provide the support of the community of faith and care;
- Establish a climate for “good grief” to occur and for healing to happen.
The purpose of the church is to witness to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, to celebrate and give thanks for the gift of life and for the gift of life eternal, and to comfort those who mourn with the assurance that nothing in all creation, not even death itself, can ever separate us from the love of God.