Thomas Long begins this fascinating volume 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.
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. He argues that a new, less-theological and less-satisfying service 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.
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Thomas G. Long is the Bandy Professor of Preaching Emeritus at Candler Theological School, Emory University. He is a world-renowned preacher and was named by Time magazine as one of the most effective preachers in the English language. He has authored more than twenty books, including The Good Funeral, Accompany Them with Singing, Matthew in the Interpretations series, and Preaching from Memory to Hope, all published by Westminster John Knox Press.