Attendees gathering for Billy Graham funeral
You can’t go to Billy Graham’s funeral on Friday unless you’re among the more than 2,000 invitees. But you’ll be able to watch it live.
The Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association will begin its livestream at 10 a.m. Go to BillyGraham.org to see it. The actual funeral service starts at noon and is expected to last about 90 minutes.
Several TV stations are expected to broadcast it live.
President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and various other public officials and celebrities will be among those joining the Graham family under a massive, 28,000-square-foot tent in the parking lot at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte.
With Friday’s weather forecast calling for strong winds, BGEA spokesman Mark DeMoss told reporters Thursday that the company that made the tent has assured them that it can stand up to even hurricane-force winds.
The tent is meant to recall Graham’s 1949 crusade in Los Angeles, which was held under two circus tents that came to be called the “Canvas Cathedral.” It was that eight-week crusade that first brought the Charlotte-born evangelist to the nation’s attention.
DeMoss said that the Graham family has been calling the funeral “Billy Graham’s Last Crusade” because all the attention surrounding it means that “the Gospel is going out, the same as if he were still preaching.”
Friday’s funeral, including the hymns, was planned by Graham himself, working with his longtime music director Cliff Barrows, who died in 2016.
Among the music planned: Christian recording artist Michael W. Smith will sing “Above All” and the Gaither Vocal Band will perform one of Graham’s favorite hymns, “Because He Lives.”
Son Franklin Graham, who’s also an evangelist, will give the message at the service, which will include remarks from Billy Graham’s four other children – Virginia “Gigi” Graham, Anne Graham Lotz, Ruth Graham and Ned Graham. Also set to speak: Graham’s only surviving sibling, Jean Ford, who lives in Charlotte.
Other members of Graham’s family – including 11 of his grandsons – will serve as pallbearers. They will alternate accompanying the casket to and from the tent.
The Scripture reading and invocation will come from the Rev. Donald Wilton, senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Spartanburg. Graham joined that church in his later years and would watch its Sunday services on TV from his Montreat home. Wilton would visit him nearly every week.
At the funeral, Wilton will preach on Ephesians 2:4-10, which includes the passage: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”
Graham’s impact around the world will be noted by tributes from visiting ministers from the Middle East, India and South Korea.
The closing prayer will be offered by Charlotte’s Bishop George Battle Jr. of the AME Zion Church.
At the end of the service, Pipe Major William Boetticher will provide a bagpipe escort for the Graham family, which has Scots-Irish roots.
A list of the invited guests has not been released, but N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper has indicated he will be there. If Graham’s 95th birthday at Asheville’s Grove Park Inn is any clue, other guests could include former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, TV host Kathie Lee Gifford and former N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory. Also possible: evangelist Joel Osteen, who attended the 2007 dedication of the Billy Graham Library.
The guests will include 100 delegates from 50 countries.
A few hours after the funeral, probably between 3:30 and 4 p.m., about 200 members of the extended Graham family will attend a private interment service on the library grounds. Graham will be laid to rest at the foot of a cross-shaped walkway, beside his wife, Ruth, who died in 2007.
His grave marker will read:
November 7, 1918-February 21, 2018
Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ