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Episcopal parishes, National Cathedral set for Ford funeral rites
Former President shared in ministry serving each church site


The Rev. Robert Certain  

[Episcopal News Service]  Funeral services in two parish churches and Washington National Cathedral will reflect President Gerald R. Ford's faith tradition as an Episcopalian active in lay ministry.

Ford's volunteer accomplishments, including work for the 1990 completion of the National Cathedral, were praised by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in a December 27 statement recognizing his "care-filled ministry." The statement's full text is available here

Ford and his wife, Betty, also shared in fundraising initiatives for Episcopal Relief and Development, formerly the Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief. The former President joined in saluting Mrs. Ford when she addressed the 1985 meeting of the General Convention in Anaheim, California, also attended by Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie.

The Fords have been active member of several congregations. During their 1974-1977 White House tenure they often attended St. John's, Lafayette Square, known as the "Church of the Presidents."   

In Palm Desert, California, at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, the Fords' parish congregation since 1977, the casket of the 38th President -- who died December 26 at age 93 –- is expected to arrive at 12:20 p.m. (PDT) on December 29 accompanied by family members, according to official reports.

After a private prayer service, close friends and guests will arrive for private visitation beginning at 1:15 p.m. Public visitation will commence at 4:20 p.m., and St. Margaret's Church will remain open until 6 or 7 a.m. on December 30, officials say. The casket is scheduled to leave the church Saturday at 9:40 a.m. after a 9 a.m. departure ceremony. Ford's body will then be flown to Washington D.C. to arrive at Andrews Air Force Base at 5:20 p.m. (EDT) that day.

The Rev. Robert Certain, rector of St. Margaret's, has been pastor to the Fords since his arrival at the parish in 1998, part of the Diocese of San Diego and located about 130 miles east of Los Angeles. Protocols to be followed at the time of the former President's death have been in place for some years, Certain told ENS.

A former U.S. Air Force pilot, Certain spent 100 days as a prisoner in North Vietnam after his plane was shot down some 34 years ago. Soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will be his new ministry focus following his January 7 retirement from St. Margaret's, Certain announced in early December.

Certain will preach the homily at the funeral service set for 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, January 2, at Washington National Cathedral, where Bishop John Chane and Dean Sam Lloyd are sharing in oversight of arrangements with the Washington Military District, which coordinates all aspects of all state funerals. Certain will offer the prayers of commendation, and Lloyd will provide the dismissal.

Chane will meet the casket at the doors of the Cathedral, where the body will arrive after lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda beginning at 8:20 p.m. on December 30 following the 7 p.m. state funeral there.

The casket is scheduled to leave the Cathedral at 12:15 p.m. to be flown to Grand Rapids Michigan, to arrive at the presidential museum at 3:30 p.m. Public visitation will follow through the night.

At Grand Rapids' Grace Episcopal Church, where the Fords were married in 1948, a funeral service is scheduled at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, January 3. The parish's interim rector, the Rev. Nixon McMillan, is assisting with arrangements. Burial will follow at a hillside site north of the museum, the Associated Press has reported.

Betty Ford and other family members are expected to return to California at 1 p.m. on January 4.