“Ministers learn not to be surprised or shocked by anything heard as well as learning to make careful assessments about what is said and what is left unsaid. During the conversation with the family the minister may be told some ‘dark part’ of the dead person’s life, or experiences that resulted in hurt for others. Occasionally, the minister will deduce the dead person was thoroughly unpleasant or was in some way difficult or cantankerous. It may be appropriate to allude to this without describing matters in detail. There is no virtue in ‘washing dirty linen in public’, but nor is it helpful to pretend the person was someone they were not. Rather than idealising their life it is possible to express what people will miss and not miss. Occasionally, it has been sufficient for me to say, ‘In all our lives there are memories and aspects of our experience with another that need to be laid to rest – things that need to be forgiven.’ As I make that comment mourners give a nod of recognition as they recognise the meaning of what I have said. Sometimes the following may be used, either as a prayer or adapted as part of the minister’s comments:
God of mercy,
as we mourn the death of N and thank you for her / his life,
we also remember times when it was hard for us to understand,
to forgive, and to be forgiven.
Heal our memories of hurt and failure,
and bring us to forgiveness and life. (ANZPB, 862)
“We should not underestimate the importance of acknowledging and dealing with difficulties of this kind. We are loved and accepted by God for who we are, not for what we would like to be, or for what others wanted us to be. In contrast to a life-centred funeral that focuses on a person’s achievements and virtues as the source of celebration, a Christian funeral celebrates first and foremost that this person is a beloved child of God who is loved unconditionally.”
From Chapter 9 — The Funeral Service, of Earthed in Hope: Dying, Death and Funerals – A Pakeha Anglican Perspective. By Alister G. Hendery.
“Death is our inevitable fate. However hard we work to postpone it or try to deny it, we cannot escape it. Our mortality rate has consistently stood at precisely 100%. It is no wonder then that funerals are the most widely practiced human rituals. ‘Of all human events, death concerns us the most deeply’ (ANZPB, 811). The inevitability of death might suggest an equal inevitability about our response to death, but nothing could be further from the truth. How we approach death, how we mark it, what we believe about it, what we do with our dead, changes from generation to generation and from culture to culture. Within New Zealand, our response to death has changed radically in just the past few decades, and the changes keep coming, but amid them all, we keep having funerals.
Since its beginnings the Church has been deeply involved in people’s dying and response to death. It has made death its business. Indeed, its very life hinges on the death and burial of one man, who then rose from the dead. Funerals are an integral element of Christian ministry just as they are to human life. Yet, as with the rest of society, the Church has experienced such changes in this sphere that they might almost be described as seismic.”
From Chapter 1 — Introduction: A Changing Landscape, 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