The church does not cope very well with dying. Instead of using its own resources to mount a positive end-of-life ministry for the terminally ill, it outsources care to secular models, providers, and services. A terminal diagnosis typically triggers denial of impending death and placing faith in the techniques and resources of modern medicine. If a cure is not forthcoming, the patient and his or her loved ones experience a sense of failure and bitter disappointment.
This book offers a critical analysis of the church's failure to communicate constructively about dying, reminding the church of its considerable liturgical, scriptural, and pastoral resources when it ministers to the terminally ill. The authors, who have all been personally and professionally involved in end-of-life issues, suggest practical, theological bases for speaking about dying, communicating with those facing death, and preaching about dying. They explore how dying--in baptism--begins and informs the Christian's life story. They also emphasize that the narrative of faith embraces dying, and they remind readers of scriptural and christological resources that can lead toward a "good dying." In addition, they present current best practices from health professionals for communication among caregivers and those facing death. The book includes a foreword by Stanley Hauerwas.
Fred Craddock (PhD, Vanderbilt University) is a widely acclaimed preacher and author, selected by Newsweek as one of the twelve most effective preachers in the English-speaking world. He has written numerous books on preaching, several commentaries, and The Cherry Log Sermons. He lives in Cherry Log, Georgia. Dale Goldsmith (PhD, University of Chicago) taught for several years at McPherson College and at the Baptist Seminary of Mexico. He is the author of New Testament Ethics and lives in Amarillo, Texas. Joy V. Goldsmith (PhD, University of Oklahoma) is assistant professor of communication at the University of Memphis. Her books include Communication as Comfort and Dying with Comfort. She lives in Atoka, Tennessee.
There is simply no question that too often we lack the words necessary to speak to one another about dying and death...The essential story--the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ--that should form our dying as well as our living as Christians seems to have been lost...This is a book we have desperately needed. I hope it will become a book widely studied in congregations and seminaries. We must learn to speak of dying. This book appropriately helps us recover our voices as a people taught to speak by the one who died on a cross.
This book offers a depth of wisdom on a universal and universally avoided experience: the act of dying. Speaking of Dying combines practical, pastoral, and biblical reflection on the care of the dying and does so without 'spiritualizing' the terrible realities of that experience. Use this book in a congregational context, and it will open up conversations you never thought possible.
James T. and Alice Mead Cleland Professor of Preaching, Duke Divinity School
This book is written with a pastoral heart and a prophet's voice. It is wise in the ways of caring for the dying and passionate in its cry for the church to remember its own christological narrative and, by doing so, to restore care for the dying into its gospel of care.
-Thomas G. Long,
professor of preaching, Candler School of Theology, Emory University; author, Accompany Them with Singing: The Christian Funeral
This book is a wonderful contribution to restoring the sacred art of facing the end of life. It is a deep and reflective analysis of the culture of dying and the Christian experience of living and dying, and a valuable resource for theologians, health care professionals, and all who seek to honor the final chapter of life.
research scientist and professor, City of Hope Medical Center, Duarte, CA
Christians often say they are not afraid of death--it's the process of dying that raises anxiety. Speaking of Dying lays a solid biblical and theological foundation connecting baptism and the Eucharist to their fulfillment in death, which aids our understanding of how dying 'in Christ' is counter to the cultural milieu of avoidance. The authors encourage pastors and congregational members to speak of their dying both to strengthen their faith and to receive support. This theological road map will most definitely enhance the reader's approach to a dying person.
-Susan J. Zonnebelt-Smeenge,
Calvin Theological Seminary
This is an essential book for any church leader, pastor, teacher, or active member. When so much is at stake, we cannot continue to fail practicing our dying faithfully.
editor at large, Christianity Today
This book is theologically sound, pastorally insightful, grounded in Christ, and rooted in Scripture. Helpful tools and ways of giving voice to the dying and to their loved ones are provided for the church's ministry.
-Abigail Rian Evans,
Charlotte Newcombe Professor of Practical Theology emerita, Princeton Seminary
Arguing that the church has ceded end-of-life care to the medical profession and neglected or forgotten available gospel resources, the authors, themselves theologians and preachers, offer a theological rationale and practical guidance for caring for the dying within congregational settings. Accounts of 10 pastors who died while serving death-denying congregations, which resulted in long-term negative consequences for their respective faith communities, provide the starting point; the authors then present challenges inherent in todays secular, biomedical culture, and they argue the need for a theology of dying. The authors review gospel stories detailing Jesus earthly ministry under threat of execution, the epistles proclamations regarding Jesus death, and sacramental theology of baptism and communion, before analyzing Jesus crucifixion and last words. Identifying challenges and questions clergy face, such as whether to preach on dying in non-funeral contexts, and how to engage resistant congregations, the authors offer 10 stories of the faithful dying, including the apostle Paul, Julian of Norwich, and Flannery OConner. The closing chapter summarizes theological tools for a good dying, with an acronym, T.A.B.L.E. Individual or small-group reflection questions follow each chapter in this accessible resource for pastors and congregations. (July)
2012 Reed Business Information
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