home page links quotes statistics mission statement success stories resources Lighter Side Authors! Search Page
Posted May 6, 2005

Book: Caring Through the Funeral: A Pastor’s Guide
Author: Gene Fowler
Chalice Press, St. Louis, MO, pp. 182

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Caring Through the Funeral is a guidebook to take pastors through the complete funeral process, from the moment the call is received to the weeks following the funeral. More than just a “how-to,” Caring through the Funeral uniquely addresses the funeral process from the perspective of pastoral ministry — of pastoral caring throughout the time of mourning, from the death through post-funeral grieving. Many times the funeral is the most momentous means of pastoral caring for the bereaved, and often it is the only time that the church has an opportunity to care for the family and friends.

Gene Flower explores what pastors go through at each stage of the funeral process. Both descriptive and conceptual, Fowler’s practical advice, solid pastoral and theological grounding, and case illustrations takes pastors and student pastors through many issues:

– the language of loss — the vocabulary ministers need for this caring ministry

– bereavement and grief

– pastoral care of family members

– pastoral care of non-family members, including groups within the church and community

– the funeral as worship service, including a comparison of four Protestant liturgical books and the elements that comprise a Christian funeral

– practical issues of planning the service, including sample services

– funeral service as means of caring for the bereaved and as a rite of passage, and the interrelationship between funerals, mourning, and grief

– how funerals often launch mourners on a spiritual journey

– questions asked by the bereaved

– role of resurrection in pastoral care

– pastoral care after the funeral

An Excerpt from the book:

Caring for Families Who Mourn

Because the minister traditionally meets with the family to discuss the funeral, it is an opportunity to reminisce about the deceased. Although this often happens naturally among the bereaved, it has been emphasized as an important aspect of grieving in pastoral care and counseling, based on the writings of Freud and Lindemann. Anderson and Foley emphasize the importance of such storytelling for grieving in their book, Mighty Stories, Dangerous Rituals: Weaving Together the Human and the Divine (1998). Storytelling about the deceased helps the bereaved “make a memory,” which they view as the central purpose of grieving. “Effecting the transition from relating to a living presence to building an enduring memory is the work of grieving.

They go on to point out that “The first stories told by grievers do not provide a definitive interpretation of the life of the deceased. They are rather scattered collections of the deceased that eventually will be revised again and again through the process of forming a narrative.”

If the initial stories told by those who grieve tend to be “scattered recollections” rather than finished products, so the minister’s pre-funeral encounters with bereaved families also can seem somewhat scattered and unfinished. The minister’s actual experience of the family, and the family member’s experience of each other, can be quite varied.

Table of Contents:

1. From ordinary time to funeral time

2. The language of loss

3. The first phase of grief

4. Caring for individuals and families who mourn

5. Caring for mourners beyond the family

6. Assembling for a funeral

7. Preparing a funeral liturgy

8. Funerals and mourning

9. Worship leadership in funerals

10. Funerals and comfort

11. Pastoral care after the funeral