Presbyterian Funeral Traditions

Feb 7, 2011 | 0 comments

This post highlights general funeral practices for Presbyterians. The actual practices of individuals, families, and congregations may vary.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) is the result of at least ten different denominational mergers over the last 250 years. There are approximately 3.6 million adherents in the United States.

The body is rarely viewed, but the family may do so at a visitation event at the funeral home before the funeral. The funeral follows the order for Sunday worship with prayers added for the deceased. A pastor or minister leads the worship service, musicians contribute songs during the service, and family or friends give eulogies.

The service may include psalms, hymns, eulogies, and a homily. The family may request a celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The primary books used are a hymnal and a Bible. Any civic or military rites should be conducted separately from a Presbyterian worship service, and can be incorporated at the burial.

Some individuals may not wish to have visitors before or after the funeral, and prefer to mourn in private. Sending flowers and/or food is appropriate. Contributions are not customary, although the family may suggest contributions to charity in lieu of flowers.

For examples of Presbyterian memorial services, you may wish to visit these Family Plot Blog posts from the “30 Funerals in 30 Days Challenge” for Betty Gephart and for Jacquie Walter.

For more details on the history, beliefs, and funeral practices for each denomination, you may wish to consult this excellent resource: The Perfect Stranger’s Guide to Funerals and Grieving Practices: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People’s Religious Ceremonies (SkyLight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, VT), or visit

Please post a comment to let me know if you find this information helpful, or if there are specific details you were looking for that this post did not address.

A Good Goodbye