Preparing For a Protestant Funeral
The passing of a loved one is a time to remember their life and honor their legacy. While there are many ways to do this, for those whose faith was important to them, honoring their Christian beliefs at the time of their passing is a gesture of beauty, dignity, and respect.
Differences between Catholic and Protestant funeral customs
Christians of all denominations have many observances and customs. Catholic Christians have many beautiful and meaningful rites, ceremonies, and traditions for life events such as funerals and burials. Because of the long history of the Catholic Church, most aspects of these rites are well-established. Catholic Christian funeral and burial rites tend to center around the rite of the sacramental Funeral Mass in which the deceased is given a public liturgy as well as special prayers honoring their life and faith and asking God to give them peace and safe passage to Heaven.
Due to the many Protestant denominations in the world today, funeral and burial customs among this group of Christians can vary widely. They can be as traditional or unique as the person being celebrated. While some may choose a more traditional service led by an ordained minister in a church setting, many Protestant Christians are choosing a more personal celebration and remembrance of life. In doing so, the inclusion of personal details and touches, whether simple or more extravagant, allows friends and family to participate in celebrating and honoring the unique life and faith of their deceased loved one, even amid their grief and mourning.
Protestant funeral customs
Protestant funerals tend to be a celebration of life and faith, centering on rejoicing that the loved one is now with God in Heaven. Regardless of the specific details, most Protestant funerals tend to have the following three parts:
- The Visitation, Viewing, or Wake Service is typically held the afternoon or evening before or immediately preceding the funeral service. It commonly takes place in a funeral home but can also be held in a church or other appropriate location. During the visitation period, the spouse, family, and friends of the deceased come to pay their respects as well as to offer comfort and support to the family. An open casket viewing of the loved one may be present, allowing family and friends closure, finality, and a final opportunity to say goodbye. In some cases, a viewing may be held with a closed casket, an urn in the case of cremation, or simply photographs of the loved one. While Protestants often expect family to say throughout the entire viewing, this is not required.
- The Funeral Service is generally held within about three days of the passing of the loved one. While in some Protestant denominations, families choose to hold a closed funeral, the funeral service is typically open to friends and the public. The Funeral Service typically takes place within a church but can be held in a funeral home or other appropriate location. The Funeral Service is most often conducted by an ordained minister who has a close relationship to the deceased or their family but can also be conducted by another trained celebrant or family member.
- Family and friends in attendance sing songs of faith and hope that their loved one is now resting in the peace of Heaven. The family members of the deceased often choose one or more speakers to deliver a eulogy, sharing a few stories or other remembrances of their loved one. Additional speakers may be chosen to deliver special Scripture passages appropriate for the deceased and the occasion, as well as offering special prayers or other readings. Recent customs include open microphone times in which attendees are invited to share a short memory, story, or reading to honor the deceased. Protestant funerals can conclude with this service or continue at the burial site or other gathering space.
With the Funeral Service completed the attendee’s process to the place of burial, typically a cemetery or mausoleum. The minister or person conducting the service will offer a few short prayers for committal of the loved one and comfort and peace for the attending family and friends. Protestant beliefs allow for cremation, and this has become an increasingly popular choice alongside traditional bodily burial.
Once concluded, attendees sometimes remain for a short time at the burial site to visit and say goodbye to one another before departing. More commonly, family and close friends will gather to eat a meal together. These gatherings are informal and unstructured, with their main purpose being a time of fellowship and reminiscence. This meal gathering often takes place at a church’s meeting hall, but can also be held at the funeral home, a community location, or the home of a family member or close friend.
Planning a Protestant funeral
While there are often many commonalities, Christian funerals and burials are not all identical. While some are very somber, others are very lively and celebratory in tone. Many fall in between and have aspects of both.
If you are planning the funeral of a Protestant Christian loved one, it is important to first consider the desires of the deceased. Along with this, consider adding personal elements to the visitation and funeral service as you celebrate the life and honor the legacy of your loved one and their faith. You might consider holding the funeral in a non-traditional location, such as the shore of a lake that was special to the deceased or providing each of the attendees a favorite flower of your loved one. You may also consider something more traditional. Either way, Gerst Funeral Homes is here to support you and your loved ones. Protestant funeral and burial customs often allow for a wide latitude to customize and personalize this meaningful and important event, which can be done in large or small ways as appropriate to honor the memory of your loved one.
No matter the religion or faith journey, a respectfully prepared funeral service is a beautiful way to honor the life of a loved one. Our team of licensed funeral home directors and staff are here to support you and your family to create an honoring experience. Available 24/7, we are here for you.