Tag Archives: pastoral resources

“Tributes can all too easily drift into romanticised eulogising…”

“The obvious location for the tribute(s) is as part of the Remembrance (ANZPB, 829) so that they conclude with the act of remembrance. Placed here, the delivery of a tribute(s) could also be accompanied by the placing of symbols on or near the coffin. It also provides a level of participation early on. The tribute(s) should not take place after the Address, as it would ‘obscure the gospel hope of the resurrection as the wave of sentiment or boisterous good humour engulfs the congregation-become-audience.’ The first part of the service focuses on the mourners’ experience of grief and the recollection of the life of the dead person. The latter part moves the focus to the future and to the hope of resurrection. Placed here it allows the minister to later draw the tributes together into the wider context of what God has done for humanity in Christ.

There are a number of hazards to be avoided in giving tributes and it is appropriate for ministers to offer guidance and help in their preparation. Tributes can all too easily drift into romanticised eulogising, leaving me wondering how soon this person will be canonised. Some speakers will be tedious and long winded, others frivolous or pompous, and yet others say more about themselves than the dead person. Many are the risks, but this should not give us cause to bar tributes being given…”

From Chapter 9 — The Funeral Service, of Earthed in Hope: Dying, Death and Funerals – A Pakeha Anglican Perspective. By Alister G. Hendery.

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‘When people talk about me losing my son, it makes me sound so careless.’

“When speaking with children about a death, the news needs to be broken gently, and then a brief but accurate description of the death needs to be given. Unfortunately, adults, encouraged by the media, regularly use euphemisms to deny the reality of death. How often do we hear people saying someone has ‘passed away’ or that they have ‘lost’ their mum? We understand such language as code for death, though at times it has an almost comic side to it. A parishioner whose son had died remarked: ‘When people talk about me losing my son, it makes me sound so careless.’ For children such language results in confusion. What does ‘passed away’ or ‘passed over’ mean? Passed to where?

She has ‘fallen asleep’ or ‘she is resting.’ I recall working with a family whose baby girl had died. In one session it emerged that her brother was afraid to go to bed. It transpired that the baby’s death had been explained to him as her ‘going to sleep and not waking up.’ Not surprisingly, the boy was scared to go to sleep.

He ‘has gone on a long journey’, but people come back from long journeys. We take holidays that involve long journeys. This simply adds to a child’s confusion.

As with adults, but even more so with children, it is crucial that euphemisms be avoided. Children ask what they need to ask and become confused or anxious when we lay on them adult-formed inhibitions. The minister and family need to be very careful how they use religious language and imagery to speak about death to children. In an attempt to reassure the child we may say that, ‘Grandma has gone to heaven to be with God’, but the child may then resent a God that takes to heaven a person they love and need. Adults as well as children are easily alienated from God by such language, and we must consider the consequences of its use. If it is said, ‘Jesus loved her’ or, ‘she was so good God wanted her’, then why have any dealings with God who removes from my life someone I love? God might take me away as well. A boy began to behave badly after his uncle died. Eventually, he explained that he was being naughty so that God would not take him away like God had taken his uncle. He had overhead someone say that his uncle was such a good person that God had taken him, so the boy was working hard to be bad to ensure the same thing did not happen to him.”

From Chapter 11 — Children, of Earthed in Hope: Dying, Death and Funerals – A Pakeha Anglican Perspective. By Alister G. Hendery.

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“…a Christian funeral celebrates first and foremost that this person is a beloved child of God…”

“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.

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Weaving, Networking & Taking Flight by Vai Ngahe – coming mid-Oct 2014

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.

Vai_Ngahe_PortraitTwo 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.