There are more than 700 denominations and many nondenominational churches worldwide which identify with Pentecostalism. Pentecostals share a belief that God has restored the gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues and divine healing, to the church. Pentecostals differ on many teachings, including what is needed for believers to receive eternal life in heaven. Pentecostal funeral traditions are varied, depending on denomination, regional or ethnic culture and the preferences of the local church and family of the deceased.
Pentecostals believe that the soul is eternal and will consciously exist forever. According to Pentecostal beliefs, those who are saved will live eternally in heaven, and those who are unsaved will spend eternity in hell. Most Pentecostals believe that those who receive Jesus Christ as their savior by faith are saved by grace. Apostolic Pentecostals, also called Oneness Pentecostals, believe the deceased was only saved if he was properly baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost. If the family believes the deceased was saved, it is perfectly acceptable to encourage them by saying that he is in a better place. If you're not sure the family believes the deceased was saved, it's better to focus on the deceased's life and pleasant memories you have of him when speaking with friends and family.
Most Pentecostals mirror the traditions of other Protestant Christians regarding funeral attire. Black or dark, conservative clothing is usually appropriate. Some Pentecostals, especially in the African-American community, have begun wearing white to funerals instead to symbolize the coming resurrection of the body when Christ returns. Apostolic Pentecostals have dress codes (referred to as "holiness standards") which adherents are expected to maintain. These include wearing long skirts or dresses for women (no pants), wearing no jewelry except wristwatches and wedding bands and wearing no makeup. Although they don't generally insist on these standards for those who are not part of their church, following them at a funeral can help keep you from standing out.
Pentecostal funeral services vary considerably in length, style and format. Most Pentecostals do not have a set pattern for funeral services. The minister and family of the deceased are allowed a good deal of leeway in planning how the service will be conducted. Services may be conducted at the church, funeral home, graveside or another appointed location. A typical Pentecostal funeral service is similar to other Protestant funeral services in most respects. Typically, there will be sacred music, either traditional or contemporary, depending on the church and the wishes of the deceased's family, but it will generally be upbeat compared with other Christian funeral music. The minister or family members read Scripture and the minister generally delivers a eulogy and a sermon, often encouraging those present to seek salvation if they have not already done so. Viewings and processionals are generally at the discretion of the deceased's family. Traditions vary, but friends and family are usually welcome to all Pentecostal funeral proceedings.
Most Pentecostal churches offer some form of a luncheon after the funeral service is concluded. This is often in the form of a potluck provided by the church's ladies' group. It is appropriate to send flowers, meals, cards or other thoughtful gifts to the bereaved. It is becoming increasingly popular amongst Pentecostals for the deceased's family to request that gifts be made to a favorite charity in lieu of flowers or other gifts. It is also appropriate to visit the bereaved in the weeks following the funeral to offer comfort.
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