Some 2,300 guests sat under a symbolic large white canvas tent in Charlotte, N.C., for the Rev. Billy Graham’s funeral service on Friday.
The setting evoked the “canvas cathedral” — two circus tents pitched together in Los Angeles in 1949 — to shelter the thousands of people who came to watch Graham preach, according to the Billy Graham Library. “The Los Angeles Crusade,” eight weeks of services, would help raise Graham to national prominence.
Friday’s funeral for the man who came to be known as America’s Pastor was private, but many people were thought to have watched online, said the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Graham died Feb. 21 at his home in Montreat, N.C., at the age of 99.
His roots began humbly not far away. As a boy he milked cows on his family farm. But as Tom Gjelten has reported, over the course of a more than six-decade-long career, Graham grew to become the most famous minister of his time, changing “the face of evangelical Christianity in America.”
The media of television and radio helped him spread his gospel message farther. Some 20 million people in 185 countries would hear Graham preach, Tom reports.
Graham was also something of a regular at the White House, beginning during the post-World War II era, he met every president and served as counselor to several.
President Trump and Melania Trump sat in the front row of Graham’s funeral service Friday. Vice President Pence and his wife, Karen, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, were also there.
President Trump and First lady Melania Trump listen to a sermon during a funeral service for the Rev. Billy Graham on Friday. Chuck Burton/AP
Trump said Wednesday that as a boy he saw Graham preach one of a series of sermons at Yankee Stadium in 1957, the closing rally of the New York Crusade.
Graham’s son, Franklin, delivered the eulogy Friday.
“The Billy Graham that the world saw on television, the Billy Graham that the world saw in the big stadiums, was the same Billy Graham that we saw at home,” Franklin said.
“There weren’t two Billy Grahams.”
He said that in the last year of his father’s life, the man known for his words, “said very little at all.”
What he would say, according to Franklin Graham, was, “‘I’m not afraid to die for I know the joys of heaven are waiting.'”
“If he could speak to you today,” Franklin Graham said, “he would ask, will you be making this journey to heaven? My father’s greatest longing has been granted.”
The funeral closed a multi-day farewell to the evangelical minister that included a motorcade procession though his beloved home state, a public viewing and a ceremony on Capitol Hill Wednesday, where his remains laid in honor — a rare tribute for a private citizen.
Bagpipers closed the funeral service with a rendition of “Amazing Grace” as Graham’s casket was moved away.
It is made of pine with a cross nailed on top and was crafted in 2006 by prisoners at the Louisiana State Penitentiary.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said Billy Graham saw the prisoners at work during a 2005 engagement and was struck.
“I liked the simple coffin with a cross on top,” he said in 2006.
Billy Graham’s final resting place place is in the Billy Graham Library’s Prayer Garden, beside his wife, Ruth, who died in 2007.
SOURCE: NPR The Two-Way – Amy Held