John's Reviews > Accompany Them with Singing: The Christian Funeral

Accompany Them with Singing by Thomas G. Long
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's review
Oct 08, 2009

it was amazing
Recommended for: Clergy
Read from January 23 to February 09, 2010

At the "Reclaiming the Text" Preaching Conference, Montreat 2006, my former preaching professor Tom Long pulled me out of my seat in the front row to join him in the journey of the Prodigal Son, whose story he was re-telling in a lecture on preaching themes from the Gospel of Luke. In reading his recent book on the Christian funeral, I feel a similar tug on my arm as Long invites the reader to understand the Church's ministry in the wake of death in terms of a "journey." The journey that Long traces moves from preparation of the body of a "holy person," to a processional that walks through a "holy place," filled with "holy people," using a "holy script," all the way to the end of the journey at the grave or crematorium.
Characteristic of his writing, Long’s richly descriptive sentences convey experiential truth in a way that awes the average pastor, who often labors for hours in vain to achieve a similar result. Take a look at chapter seven “The Marks of a Good Funeral” for several examples, i.e. “At weddings, pastors sometimes feel trampled by overenthusiastic couples and their ‘wedding handlers,’ who can on occasion treat pastors as props, ecclesiastical bling in a schmaltzy fairy tale scripted by Brides Magazine. The wildness of death, however, is not so easily managed.”
In the “acknowledgements” and “introduction” that preface the book, Long describes a 14-year journey of writing the book, a journey during which many of his attitudes, assumptions, and pastoral instincts were challenged. Long’s emphasis upon the importance of the body reflects his relatively recent and vibrant opposition to the neo-Gnostic bent of so much contemporary spirituality. To a degree that was not true before the writing of this book, Long now believes and emphasizes that to God, the flesh matters. The inclusion of the body in Christian worship at times of death, literally, or at least symbolically, and accompanying the body of the one for whom Christ has died all the way to the grave, is, in his mind, a vital element that marks the funeral as “Christian.”
Long’s book is offered as the first comprehensive treatise on the Christian funeral in more than fifty years. Readers looking for a simple nuts-and-bolts “how to” manual will be disappointed. But clergy who regularly officiate funerals will be rewarded with a thoughtful appraisal of current funeral practices, and a cohesive theological foundation for informing ministry at times of death. “In the funerals of the departed, accompany them with singing, if they were faithful in Christ, for precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” – Apostolic Constitutions, 6.30

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Reading Progress

01/23/2010 page 22
9.82% ""A society that has forgotten how to honor the bodies of (the) departed is more inclined to neglect...the bodies of those still living.""
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