Living in Holy Saturday : keeping balance of death and resurrection in United Methodist funerals.

Date of Award


Document Type



Drew Theological School

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry


The South Georgia Annual Conference has pastors of all ages, genders, degrees of education, and classifications serving churches of various sizes in various geographical locations. Yet one thing all such pastors hold in common is that when someone for whom they have pastoral care dies, they are usually called upon to conduct the funeral service. There is minimal time for gathering of information, handling of details, and planning of the service of worship. Therefore, advance thought is needed about one's theology of death and resurrection, what purpose the funeral service provides, and how to best embody one's theology in the midst of the service. When little or no prior thought has been given to funerals, the purpose of our worship often becomes imbalanced with a focus on celebrating the life of the deceased and little to no resemblance of worship or with a focus on God and the hope of heaven with no mention of the deceased. The service can also become dismissive of the reality of the pain of death in exchange for a celebration of life everlasting with no mention of resurrection due to the fact that death is never acknowledged. Instead the celebration is merely one of immortality or the continuation of life as it is now. The purpose of this project was to begin a conversation among the clergy of the South Georgia Annual Conference about funerals and specifically the topics of keeping the balance between worship and celebration of the deceased; our theology of death and resurrection to which we give witness; ways we can embody the celebration of the deceased; and how to live in Holy Saturday between the reality and pain of death and the hope of resurrection. To begin the conversation, clergy planned their own funeral services. Information on these topics was presented at a day apart for the participating clergy. Feedback was received at a second day apart and through interviews.