Earthed in Hope will enrich the funeral ministry both of those in the Anglican (Episcopal) tradition and those from other Churches. It is also a valuable resource for funeral celebrants, counsellors and anyone supporting the bereaved and dying. Hendery reflects on and responds to spiritual, theological, liturgical, pastoral and cultural questions, and offers practical suggestions and insights that will be helpful to those involved in taking funerals and caring for the bereaved and the dying.
A theme of Earthed In Hope, is that while celebrant-led funerals provide a valuable service to the community, the Church is still well-positioned to work with the bereaved, conduct funerals and perform the various rituals associated with death. Hendery urges the Church and its ministers to give more attention and priority to this vital aspect of Christian mission.
Praise for Earthed in Hope
“…A funeral marks the ending of a human life and, as Hendery points out, people today have a wide choice in style and content of a funeral service. When a minister of the church is requested to officiate, it cannot be taken for granted that the community for this funeral either understands or accepts the Christian story. Listening is a key part of the minister’s preparation. It is also important for a minister to accept that profound feelings of the loss of a physical presence cannot be assuaged by religious formulae.
At several places in the book the author stresses that whatever form the funeral takes, the most effective feature will be the embodiment of compassion by the minister. While those attending the funeral may forget what was said they will probably remember the attitude of the minister.
While a minister of the church is a spokesperson for the gospel, Hendery stresses this does not mean imposing on people. Ministers must be flexible and willing to offer guidance rather than ruling on matters such as choice of music and form of tribute.
Hendery expresses concern about the way euphemistic language may diminish the reality of someone’s death. Too often a person passes away to become the deceased. Instead, the author prefers unambiguous language. His practice of referring to someone who has died as “the dead person” indicates both respect for the person and an acceptance of reality.
The idea of closure, as it is popularly termed, is addressed thoughtfully. Writing of the pastoral care of people who are grieving, Hendery suggests that while, over time, those who have been bereaved may become reconciled to their loss, this does not mean that closure, is an appropriate end to the experience of grief. Those who are left continue to relate to those who have died through memory and abiding influence.
For those concerned with funeral ministry there is much in this book that will repay careful reflection: how God and Christian hope are presented, the avoidance of euphemisms and idealistic eulogies, ritual at and after the funeral, funerals following suicide, funerals of children and children at funerals.
Hendery states: ‘We need to be able to look death in the face and be willing to wrestle with the theological, spiritual and emotional demands that this takes.’ Earthed in Hope offers significant help for those who are serious about doing this.” – Reviewed by Rev John Meredith in Touchstone June 2015
“Alister Hendery is offering us a great gift in this beautiful, resource-filled and comprehensive book. … In simple and unassuming style Alister provides not only a comprehensive resource, but a wise, insightful and at times challenging guide across the uniquely privileged landscape the pastor is called to traverse.” + Philip Richardson, Primate and Archbishop,Tikanga Pakeha –