Pentecostal Funerals: Traditions, Songs & What to Expect

Updated

Knowing what to expect at a funeral can be difficult if you’re not a member of the faith or culture of those organizing it. For example, perhaps you’re going to attend a Pentecostal funeral, but you’re generally unfamiliar with Pentecostalism. You might understandably have questions about what happens at a Pentecostal funeral, how long the service may last, and more.

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While a single blog entry couldn’t possibly explore all aspects of any religious sect’s views on death, funerals, and burials, this general overview will help you better understand what a typical Pentecostal funeral may involve.

How Do Pentecostals View Death?

As is the case in virtually any religion, Pentecostal views on death can be somewhat complex. What’s most important to understand is that essentially all Pentecostal views on any spiritual subject have their roots in Biblical teachings.

Pentecostals believe that death is a form of punishment for the sins of Adam and Eve. However, they also believe that God’s ultimate plan is to restore us to a state of immortality in Paradise.

Some Pentecostalists explain there’s no way to truly know what exactly happens after death, as that is in God’s hands. However, they do believe that when a person dies, their body returns to the Earth, while their soul travels to an intermediary realm to await judgment.

Some souls ascend to a happy realm where they live with God. Others go to a Hellish realm. Both fates are temporary. Pentecostals believe the soul eventually returns to the body for the Resurrection.

Many Pentecostals believe that will happen relatively soon. Pentecostalism is one of several sects in Christianity in which the members believe the Resurrection is near.

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What Happens During a Pentecostal Funeral Service

Pentecostal funerals tend to be similar to many types of other Christian funerals. They include prayers, sermons, and eulogies. This basic guide will give you a better sense of what may (and may not) happen during a Pentecostal funeral service.

Order of service

There’s no rigid order of service that all Pentecostal funerals must follow. There can be some variation from one funeral to another. That said, the order of service for a typical Pentecostal funeral will resemble something like the following:

  • Musical prelude
  • Procession of clergy and family
  • Scripture reading
  • Prayer
  • Joyful singing
  • (Optional) hymns of worship for Jesus Christ
  • Sermon
  • Eulogy
  • Closing prayer
  • Burial
  • Instrumental music for processional

In a traditional Pentecostal funeral, a minister will deliver both the sermon and the eulogy. Depending on how important tradition is to a given family, some Pentecostals may make exceptions and allow friends or family members to eulogize a loved one. However, a Pentecostal church may not allow this if they adhere to strict policies.

Length of service

The length of a Pentecostal funeral service can vary on a case-by-case basis. A short Pentecostal funeral may only last 30 minutes. Longer funerals can last up to 90 minutes. Factors influencing how long a Pentecostal funeral lasts include the number of mourners, the length of the songs, sermons, and eulogy, and the number of songs and prayers in the funeral.

Sermons

Just as there’s no strict format for all Pentecostal funerals, there’s also no specific requirements for a Pentecostal funeral sermon. 

That said, a basic Pentecostal funeral sermon will involve acknowledging that the deceased is with God, “who knoweth and doeth all things well.” The minister may then state that there is nothing wrong with feeling sadness during this time, but that there is no need for sorrow because Pentecostal Christians believe in the power of hope. 

The remainder of the sermon may focus on optimistic Christian beliefs. Additionally, a minister may reference popular funeral sermons when choosing or writing one for a Pentecostal funeral.

Hymns and songs

The primary requirement for Pentecostal funeral hymns and songs is that they’re Christian in nature. Pentecostal churches may choose which songs will be part of a funeral. If a family wishes to make their own choices, church officials must approve of them first.

However, it’s important to understand that Pentecostal funeral songs absolutely can be contemporary. For example, many Pentecostal funerals now include the song “On Eagle’s Wings,” which is only a few decades old.

In general, Pentecostalism is a dynamic faith that emphasizes the joy the Holy Spirit brings. As such, it’s not uncommon for the songs in Pentecostal funerals to be joyful in nature.

Prayers

The funeral prayers a minister chooses for a Pentecostal funeral can vary from one funeral to another. Often, they’ll perform the Benediction prayer. During the graveside service, they will also usually read a version of the common “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” committal.

Eulogy

Again, except in unique circumstances, the minister will deliver the eulogy during a Pentecostal funeral, although loved ones of the deceased may help them write it.

A typical Pentecostal funeral eulogy will expand on the beliefs discussed in the sermon while also explaining how the deceased, in particular, lived a good life and may have embodied Pentecostal teachings. 

If you review sample Pentecostal funeral programs that include sample sermons and eulogies, you’ll find that a eulogy during a Pentecostal funeral often seems like a more personal extension of the sermon, instead of an entirely separate phase of the funeral.

Procession

After the musical prelude, a Pentecostal funeral will usually include a procession, in which the clergy and close members of the deceased’s family will walk down the aisle to the front of the church. Other mourners in attendance should respectfully keep quiet during this phase, although crying is permitted.

Meal

It’s traditional for families to host receptions and lunches after Pentecostal funerals are complete. Often, guests and members of the church will contribute food for the meal. The reception is another time when it’s appropriate to give gifts and donations.

Pentecostal Funeral Etiquette

Pentecostal funeral etiquette isn’t particularly overwhelming or strict. Guests who aren’t members of the Pentecostal Church should dress respectfully. They may also attempt to follow along with the service when they feel comfortable doing so, but this isn’t a requirement.

Attire

Appropriate Pentecostal funeral attire is similar to most Christian funeral attire. Attendees often wear black or dark formalwear. That said, particularly in African-American communities, it’s becoming increasingly common for those attending Pentecostal funerals to wear white. This is meant to symbolize the resurrection of the body.

Apostolic Pentecostals may adhere to slightly stricter dress codes during funerals. Women should wear long skirts or dresses instead of pants. They should also refrain from wearing jewelry (except for watches and wedding bands) and makeup.

Pentecostals usually don’t expect non-members of the faith to follow this dress code. However, someone might choose to do so anyway to avoid looking out of place.

Condolence and sympathy gifts

Pentecostal funeral attendees may offer condolences, gifts, and donations, regardless of whether they practice the faith. If a family chooses to host a viewing of the deceased’s body before the funeral itself, often, a line will form so that every guest can see the body and offer condolences simultaneously.

While this isn’t universally the case, it’s growing more and more common for Pentecostal families to ask that friends and loved ones make donations to charities in lieu of gifts.

Mood

The typical Pentecostal funeral will usually strike a balance between acknowledging that losing a loved one can be a painful experience, even for those with strong faith, while also celebrating the joy of reuniting a soul with God. 

Although there are exceptions, most Pentecostal funerals are neither extremely somber nor extremely celebratory. Perhaps the best way to describe the mood of a Pentecostal funeral would be to call it “comforting.”

Pentecostal Burial Customs

A Pentecostal burial mirrors a basic Christian burial. If no one has performed the Benediction previously at a funeral home or church, an official will perform it during the burial.

It’s worth noting that, although Pentecostalism emphasizes the sanctity of the body and the idea that the soul will return to it for the Resurrection, Pentecostalists no longer strictly prohibit cremation. While traditional beliefs have held that burial is necessary, a quick search of Pentecostal obituaries reveals that cremation is becoming increasingly acceptable among Pentecostals.

How Do Pentecostal People Remember the Dead?

Pentecostal people don’t have any specific guidelines for remembering the dead. They may choose to grieve openly, or they may remain stoic in the aftermath of a loved one’s passing.

Once more, they primarily believe that when someone dies, they reunite with God. Thus, they may remember the dead the way many Christians do: by praying regularly and visiting a loved one’s grave from time to time. However, they don’t have any set rituals for remembering the dead in the months and years after a passing.

Pentecostal Funerals: Traditional Practices for Putting the Dead to Rest

As is often the case in religious funerals, Pentecostal funerals reflect the spiritual beliefs of those who organize them. They address the pain of losing a loved one while also highlighting the importance of faith.


Sources:
  1. “After Death?” New Life United Pentecostal Church, 2021, thenewlifeupc.org
  2. “Anthropology (Theology of Humans).” Encyclopedia of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity, Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, 2005, cw.routledge.com
  3. Cohoe, Merri, Sue Ellen Contreras and Debra Sparks. “A Practitioner’s Guide to Culturall Sensitive Practice for Death and Dying.” Southwest Texas State University, April 2002, digital.library.txstate.edu.
  4. “Dealing With Grief.” The Pentecostal Family, The Pentecostal Family, n.d., thepentecostalfamily.org.
  5. Fulkerson, Samuel. “Funeral service.” Sermon Central, Outreach, Inc., 23 August 2012, sermoncentral.com.
  6. “Funeral Policy and Guide.” Eastgate United Pentecostal Church, n.d., static1.squarespace.com.
  7. Markey, Dell. “Pentecostal Funeral Traditions.” Classroom, Leaf Group, 29 September 2017, classroom.synonym.com.

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