ACCOMPANY THEM WITH SINGING: THE CHRISTIAN FUNERAL by Thomas G. Long
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“This book is an appeal for reform, but certainly not for repristination. . . . We should learn from our history, but whatever shape Christian funerals will take in the twenty-first century, they must not be attempts to recreate fifth- or sixteenth- or nineteenth-century practices. Instead they must be doable, plausible, and meaningful in the urban-influenced, fast-paced, multicultural society in which we live. But even as Christian practices adjust and change to new cultural realities, there remain shapes, themes, and trajectories that mark them off as distinctively Christian. When Christian funerals are faithful to those shapes, themes, and trajectories the human spirit is nourished, the community of Christ is strengthened, the Gospel is proclaimed, the dead in Christ are honored and remembered, and the light of resurrection hope shines for all to see.” —from the introduction
Thomas G. Long, one of America’s most trusted and thoughtful pulpit voices, provides a theological and cultural critique of today's Christian funeral. Long begins by describing how the Christian funeral developed historically, theologically, and liturgically, and then discusses recent cultural trends in funeral practices, including the rise in both cremations and memorial services. He describes the basic pattern for a funeral service, details options in funeral planning, identifies characteristics of a "good funeral," and provides thoughtful guidance for preaching at a funeral.
A helpful guide for understanding, planning, and conducting meaningful and theologically sound funerals.
But Long also notes a disturbing trend toward funeral services that seem theologically right and pastorally caring, but actually depart from the primary aims of the Christian funeral constructed around the metaphor of the deceased as a saint traveling on a baptismal journey toward God, accompanied by the community of faith on “the last mile of the way.” He argues that the cultural conditions for maintaining this view are under stress and a new, less-theological and less-satisfying metaphor that focuses on the mourner has begun to erode the Christian view. He contrasts the ancient grand community drama with today’s trend toward body-less memorial services that focus primarily on the living and grief management. This is a loss for the church, he argues, and he calls for the church to reclaim the classic metaphor.
Accompany Them with Singing is a practical and theologically sound resource for Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy and for funeral professionals.
Thomas G. Long is Bandy Professor of Preaching at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, and is one of the most popular preachers in the United States today. He is the author of The Witness of Preaching; The Senses of Preaching; Preaching and the Literary Forms of the Bible; Whispering the Lyrics: Sermons for Lent and Easter; Matthew (Westminster Bible Commentary); Hebrews (Interpretation); Testimony: Talking Ourselves into Being Christian; and Preaching from Memory to Hope.
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