Planning the Service

Type of Service

The pastor will be present with loved ones at the time of loss and will help arrange the service. It is important to provide the name of the funeral director so that the church can coordinate the day and time of the service. There are several forms of services:

    • Funeral: A funeral service is usually conducted within days of death. It is generally held at the church although it can be held at a funeral home. The closed casket or urn may be present.
    • Memorial: A memorial service is conducted at the church and can take place days or weeks after death. A longer timeline can allow more opportunity for friends and family to receive notice and make arrangements to attend. The casket or urn is not present.
    • Committal: The committal is a short service at the graveside or columbarium that specifically ministers to the needs of loved ones. It consists of brief scripture readings and prayers. The committal may accompany a funeral or memorial service and be held either before or after the service. The service can be a small gathering for close relatives of the deceased person.

At Fourth Presbyterian Church, funeral and memorial services may take place in the main sanctuary or Stone Chapel.

Order of Service

The content of the funeral or memorial service is the responsibility of the officiating pastor and is guided by the Directory for Worship in the Book of Order and the Book of Common Worship.

The Service of Witness to the Resurrection has some basic components which include:

    • Call to Worship;
    • Prayer of Invocation;
    • Readings from the Old and New Testaments;
    • Tributes and Remembrances (optional);
    • Homily;
    • Pastoral Prayer;
    • The Lord’s Prayer;
    • Music, hymns, or solos (optional);
    • Benediction.

These components may vary somewhat. The officiating pastor shapes the order of service in consultation with loved ones and the previously expressed wishes of the deceased.

The service is intended to be personal, while praising and thanking God that in life as in death, we are held securely in God’s hands. Family and friends are invited to participate in the service when appropriate. A limited number of people may be invited to offer brief remembrances during the service, which is arranged in advance with the officiating pastor.

Once the service has been planned, Fourth Presbyterian Church will print the worship bulletin.

Scriptures and Hymns

The following are a selection of particularly appropriate scriptures and hymns for use in the service or for your private reflections.

Old Testment Scripture:

Job 19:23–27                          I know that my redeemer lives
Ecclesiastics 3:1–15                For everything there is a season
Isaiah 25:6–9                         God will swallow up death forever
Isaiah 40:1–11                       Comfort my people
Isaiah 40:28–31                     Those who wait for the Lord
Isaiah 43:1–3a, 18–19, 25     When you pass through the waters
Isaiah 44:6–8                         I am the first and I am the last
Isaiah 55:1–3, 6–13               Everyone who thirsts
Isaiah 61:1–4, 10–11             The spirit of the Lord is upon me
Isaiah 65:17–25                     I create new heavens and a new earth
Lamentations 3:19–26, 31–32     The Lord’s steadfast love
Daniel 12:1–3                         Many of those who sleep in the dust shall awake
Joel 2:12–13, 23–24, 26–29  Return to the Lord with all your heart

The Psalms:

Psalm 16:5–11                        The Lord is my chosen portion
Psalm 23                                 The Lord is my Shepherd
Psalm 27:1, 4–9a, 13–14       The Lord is my light and my salvation
Psalm 39:4–5, 12                   Lord, let me know my end
Psalm 42:1–6a                       As a deer longs for flowing streams
Psalm 43                                Why are you cast down, O my soul
Psalm 46:1–5, 10–11            God is our refuge and strength
Psalm 90:1–10, 12                Lord, you have been our dwelling place
Psalm 91                                You who live in the shelter of the Most High
Psalm 103                              Bless the Lord, O my soul
Psalm 106:1–5                      O give thanks to the Lord
Psalm 116:1–9, 15                 The Lord has heard my voice
Psalm 118                              Open the gates of righteousness
Psalm 121                              I lift up my eyes to the hills
Psalm 130                             Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord
Psalm 139:1–12                    O Lord, you have searched me and known me
Psalm 145                             I will extol you, my God and King
Psalm 146                             Praise the Lord, O my soul!

New Testament Scripture:

Matthew 5:1–12a                The Beatitudes
Luke 23:33, 39–43              Remember me when you come into heaven
John 3:16–21                       For God so loved the world
John 11:17–27                     I know he will rise again in the resurrection
John 14                                Do not let your hearts be troubled
Romans 8:14–25                 All led by Spirit of God are sons and daughters
Romans 8:31–35                 Nothing can separate us from the love of God
Romans 14:7–9                   We do not live to ourselves
1 Corinthians 15:20–26,
35–38, 42–44, 53–58          Where, O death, is your victory?
2 Corinthians 4:16–5:1        A house eternal in the heavens
Philippians 4:4–9                 Rejoice in the Lord always
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18      God will bring with him those who have died
Revelation 21:1–4,
22–25, 22:3–5                      Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth

Suggested Hymns:

The following hymns, suitable for use at a funeral or memorial service, are found in the Presbyterian Hymnal.

171         The King of Love My Shepherd Is
172         My Shepherd Will Supply My Need
210         Our God, Our Help in Ages Past
253         I’ll Praise My Maker
280         Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound
281         Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
339         Be Thou My Vision
383         My Faith Looks Up to Thee
399         We Walk by Faith and Not by Sight
404         Precious Lord, Take My Hand
526         For All the Saints
543         Abide with Me
555         Now Thank We All Our God
562         Eternal Father, Strong to Save

Other Elements at the Service

Scheduling a Service:
The Pastor for Pastoral Care and the Events Coordinator ordinarily work with the loved ones to set a date for the funeral or memorial service, and the pastor who will be officiating helps coordinate communication with the funeral director in a timely way so that notice may be included with the obituary sent to the newspapers, with attention to publication deadlines. It is the custom at Fourth Church not to hold funerals, memorial services, or receptions on a Sunday due to the ever-full schedule of that day.

Participation by Other Ministers:
One of the pastors at Fourth Presbyterian Church will conduct the service. An invitation to assist in the service may be extended to clergy beyond Fourth Church. It is customary for the invitation to be extended through the officiating pastor.

Music at the Service:
A musician for the service will be arranged through the officiating pastor. By request, a soloist or special music can be arranged. It is appropriate for worshipers to sing songs that affirm God’s power over death, a belief in the resurrection, and the assurance of the communion of saints. Popular favorite songs of sentimental character or secular connotation are best reserved for the reception following the service.

Floral Arrangements:
The Fourth Church Events Coordinator can provide names of florists who are familiar with the church as well as recommendations for both the service and the reception, if held on site. Due to space constraints, flower arrangements in the sanctuary of the church are limited to two arrangements in the upper chancel. Flower arrangements in Stone Chapel are limited to one arrangement. Additional arrangements that may arrive are placed in the Narthex before the service and transported to the reception room by Fourth Church house staff. Other tributes such as photographs and a guest book also may be displayed in the Narthex and at the reception.

Expressions of Sympathy and the Obituary:
Often people request that in lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy be directed to a memorial fund or a specific charity or organization. These wishes are included in the obituary.

Loved ones may choose to host a reception following the service that gives family and friends time to visit. Fourth Church can provide space for a reception along with basic refreshments of coffee, tea, and water; schedule permitting. If loved ones wish to provide refreshments, the Fourth Church Events Coordinator will be happy to provide recommendations about caterers. All arrangements should be discussed with the Events Coordinator to accommodate set up and delivery.