Former President Ronald Reagan was a member of the Presbyterian Church, but his funeral today generally will follow the liturgy of the Episcopal Church, according to a spokesman for the Washington National Cathedral.
"The service will be basically Episcopal, with a few interfaith modifications - all at the family's request," Elizabeth Hargrave, media relations specialist for the cathedral, said yesterday.
The invitation-only ceremony, the city's first state funeral since that of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1973, is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. with the reception of the body at the cathedral.
The cathedral, officially named the Cathedral Church of Ss. Peter and Saint Paul, is an Episcopal institution that was established by an 1893 congressional grant.
The celebrant for Mr. Reagan's funeral will be the Rev. John C. Danforth, a former Republican U.S. senator from Missouri who is an Episcopal priest and a graduate of Yale Divinity School.
Bishop John Bryson Chane, the eighth Episcopal bishop of Washington, and Bishop A. Theodore Eastman, retired Episcopal bishop of Maryland, also will be participants.
At the family's request, the ecumenical funeral service also will include participation by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington; Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, and Imam Mohammad Magid Ali, imam and director of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society.
Rabbi Harold Kushner, a rabbi laureate of Temple Israel in Natick, Mass., and author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, will read a verse from the Book of Isaiah that says, in part: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
The service will include tributes from a number of political figures, including President Bush; former President George H.W. Bush; Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor; former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
Songs selected for the ceremony, which was detailed in a 300-page funeral plan written by the Reagan family, include "Amazing Grace" sung by Irish tenor Ronan Tynan and Beethoven's "Ode To Joy" to be sung by the congregation.
According to The Book of Common Prayer, which contains the funeral liturgy for an Episcopal service, the casket is covered with a white pall.
The Rev. C. Rodney Hudgen, interim rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Toledo, said in most cases when a U.S. flag is draped over a casket, the flag is ceremonially removed and folded in a triangular shape after the casket arrives at the church.
"The reason the U.S. flag comes off at that point is that the person is being buried as a baptized Christian, and his spiritual life supersedes his earthly nationality," Father Hudgen said.
The pall that covers the coffin is white because it is a symbol of the resurrection of the spirit and is considered a sign of honor and status within the Christian community, he said.
After the funeral at the cathedral, Mr. Reagan's body will be flown to California for burial.
Yesterday, the Rev. Jack Kimble, pastor of All Saints Episcopal Church in Toledo, said at the funeral for William Brower, the pioneering black journalist who worked for The Blade for 50 years, that the liturgy at Mr. Brower's funeral was essentially the same as that for Mr. Reagan.
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