Pentecostal funeral customs are similar to other Christian funeral traditions. The service traditionally takes place at the church, but it may also be conducted at a funeral home or at the site of the grave. In the past it has been the custom to wear black at Pentecostal funeral services. However, white is more frequently being used to symbolize the Pentecostal belief in the resurrection of the body.
While the deceased’s wishes are carried out as much as possible, the family members also make suggestions regarding the service, selecting hymns or determining the length of the memorial service. Short services may run about 30 minutes, while longer services run 90 minutes or longer.
Pentecostal funeral services are led by the church’s minister, and they include standard scripture readings from the Bible. Prayers and other hymns and songs are sung by the congregation. The tone of the service is more exuberant than in other Protestant traditions. Following the musical selections, the minister typically will offer his condolences to the family members and loved ones of the deceased. The minister then preaches a sermon. The sermon is then followed by the Lord’s Prayer and possibly the Benediction.
At predominantly African-American Pentecostal funerals, it is common for there to be a viewing. At the end of this portion of the service, the funeral director or the ministers will escort members of the immediate family to view the body for several moments. The rest of the congregation will line up behind the family to pass by the casket and view the body. A reception line is also formed for visitors to offer condolences to the family. When the church service is dismissed, committal service is conducted at the graveside. If the Benediction was not offered at the church or funeral home, it will be said at the brief graveside service.
Many African-American traditions are included in Pentecostal ceremonies as well. In most cases, the funeral is a large and elaborate ceremony involving relatives and friends from all across the country. In addition to pallbearers, flower girls see to the needs of the immediate family. Women within the congregation see to those overcome with grief. Elaborate musical solos and choir performances are also part of the funeral service.
Memorial flowers and donations are generally accepted. In addition, a large reception usually follows the interment and friends and relatives are invited to attend. During this time family members and friends share fond memories and special stories about the deceased. It is appropriate to offer to prepare a dish or meal to share at the reception or to serve to the family following burial.