“In the presence of the dying the minister is called to give both comfort and honesty, both consolation and challenge. There are times when we must be prepared to speak the truth about death. It may fall to us to be the one who says: ‘It’s now time to die.’ At other times we must confront platitudes or denials, or a spirituality that gives false hope. We share the conviction that life comes out of death, but we must not become, as Richard Giles warns, ‘apostles of false hope, trafficking the empty promise that, “everything’s going to be all right”. Even if we mean it in an ontological sense, it will be understood in a “here-and now” sense. We must be careful always to speak straight, for false assurance is the cruellest of gifts.’ We trust God’s mercy, but we cannot engineer God’s intervention. We affirm that we shall never be lost to God and that God holds us with a love that is stronger than death. In all this we are called ‘to mediate the strong and fearless love of a God who is willing to release us into the world and watch us wobble down the world. A God who, as David Jenkins puts it, “suffers rather than bashes his way through.”
From Chapter 8 — A Time to Die, of Earthed in Hope: Dying, Death and Funerals – A Pakeha Anglican Perspective. By Alister G. Hendery.
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“Ministry becomes immensely rewarding when we are able to recognise God’s presence already existing in the lives and experience of the bereaved (in what Denyer calls ‘the baggage’). It is not a matter of taking God to people (or taking people to God). That implies that God is not present in the situation. It is about recognising that God is already existing and active in people’s lives – in their suffering, grieving and dying. Augustine, who has a clear sense of God being present in all places, vigorously challenges a limited view of God’s presence – ‘present entirely everywhere at once.’ The minister’s task is to help people recognise the divine activity and presence, or as Rowan Williams describes it: ‘finding out what God is doing and joining in.’”
From Chapter 5 — How Might We Respond? of Earthed in Hope: Dying, Death and Funerals – A Pakeha Anglican Perspective. By Alister G. Hendery. Order now eBooks or Print book
“The pastoral dimension of a funeral will enable and reinforce healthy grieving. It will acknowledge where people are in their grief and give them the opportunity to express something of their experience of loss and recognise the true nature of the death. I suspect few people today consider grieving to be pathological, but many regard it with a deep sense of embarrassment and awkwardness. What we need are grievers who can express their grief unapologetically; showing us that grief is not an illness, not a weakness, not self-pity, not simply sadness, not something that we should grin and bear – but a natural, normal response to loss. It is part of being human. John’s statement, ‘Jesus began to weep’ (John 11:35) (or, as in the Revised Standard Version, ‘Jesus wept’), affirms our needs in time of grief. A grieving father wrote: ‘I shall look at the world through tears. Perhaps I shall see things that with dry-eyes I could not see.’ That Jesus openly expressed his grief is not, however, a warrant for turning the funeral into a liturgical counselling session but an expression of the compassion of God who is present with us, sharing our pain and acquainted with our grief.”
From Chapter 2 — Universal Dimensions, of Earthed in Hope: Dying, Death and Funerals – A Pakeha Anglican Perspective. By Alister G. Hendery.
“Ministers need a strong and loving wisdom to guide the bereaved through the funeral process, carefully listening to what is being said, building rapport and empathy, and being willing to explore possibilities with those making the arrangements. The trust and confidence of the bereaved has to be gained and this can only be achieved by sensitive response to their spiritual, social and emotional needs. We live in a consumer culture where people are used to getting what they want and expressing dissatisfaction if they do not get it. That does not mean that the mourners should dictate the form and content of the service. Rather, each funeral is the result of a partnership between minister and bereaved, the product of negotiation not dictation. In that process, the minister has to be able ‘to gauge accurately what this family would like to hear said and have done. It is entirely possible to keep the Christian liturgical framework and still include elements or emphasise themes that mean a lot to the bereaved but are not at the forefront of the liturgy.’582”
From Chapter 9 — The Funeral Service, of Earthed in Hope: Dying, Death and Funerals – A Pakeha Anglican Perspective. By Alister G. Hendery. Order now eBooks or Print book
Weaving, Networking & Taking Flight: Engaged Ministry in Avondale Union and Manurewa Methodist parishes 2006-2014 by ‘Alifeleti Vaitu’ulala Ngahe
— Coming mid-October 2014
ISBN 9781501004476. 68pp. 6 x 9″ soft cover
Tongan Methodist minister ‘Alifeleti Vaitu’ulala Ngahe has been in full-time, ordained ministry for almost 10 years. This book reflects on those years in Avondale Union and Manurewa Methodist parishes in Auckland, New Zealand.
Rev Ngahe’s approach is to create strategies for change by engaging in deep theological thinking, in networking with key local people and organisations, and in careful reflection on learnings from his ministry. He believes all people in a community have a contribution to make and hopes this book will encourage church and other local leaders to work effectively in their communities.
Church life and ministry is changing. Alongside this, our communities are changing and are often stressed. How does the Church engage effectively with the communities in which they are set?
Rev Ngahe says, “Over my years in ministry it has become clear that people are excited and enthusiastic about engaging in God-talk and living out the Gospels. …communities come together when a vision and the possibility of achieving positive change are offered.”
Using the metaphors of weaving a mat, creating a network the way a spider spins a web and a bird taking flight, he explains how he has given new life to his parishes.
- The mat represents the history of the church. Leaving the edges of the mat unfinished allows new stories and experiences to be woven in.
- The web represents the network that needs to be deliberately built up between people in the church and the leaders and organisations that form the surrounding local community.
- The bird reminds us that it takes a lot of energy to take flight. But when the community is working together and heading in the same direction, we can relax and enjoy the ride, soaring through the air.
Two key projects demonstrate the power of church and community working together. The run-down Rosebank Penninsula Church building has been restored and transformed into a busy community centre. The outdoor mural at Manurewa Methodist church was painted by people of all ages from within the church and the wider local community. It remains a vibrant symbol of that church’s role as the Corner of Hope.
Rev Ngahe’s enthusiastic and yet deeply thoughtful, methodical approach will provide inspiration for all who are engaged in multicultural Christian ministry.