Stroop’s 1949 classic is still relevant today
Seventy years have passed since J. Ridley Stroop wrote “Why…
‘The brokenhearted need shoulders, not sermons.”
That jewel of a thesis is at the heart of “Comfort When the Shadow Falls: Encouraging the Dying and Those Affected by Grief.”
Author Eddie Sharp, who has ministered at more than 500 funerals, shares from a deep well of ministerial experiences in walking with the dying and grievers. A senior consultant with the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry at Abilene Christian University in Texas, he writes in collaboration with Cheryl Mann Bacon, who served for 20 years as chair of ACU’s journalism and mass communication department.
Practical and personal, Sharp begins with a rich, biblical basis for death’s reality and role in our humanity.
Then he calls us to be God’s faithful sojourners with each other in our shared mortality.
Sharp effectively addresses being fully present with a dying person and with the family and survivors during and after death. These can be uncomfortable times for ministers.
But these times also can open opportunities for our most profound representation of a loving God. Learning to walk with (rather than preach to) grievers, a minister can enhance the vital place funeral services provide as a place of community mourning and goodbyes.
The book is replete with special, unexpected circumstances a minister may encounter such as sudden death, miscarriage or other sources of grief — divorce, health crises, bankruptcy.
The book includes a template for an obituary and the traditional components of a memorial service. The author acknowledges, sometimes briefly, some of the more difficult types of funerals ministers must conduct. Veterans and infants are particularly mentioned, as is the occasional instance of responding to a news-covered death. An entire chapter faces the challenging but spiritually helpful “Serving the Unchurched with the Love of Jesus.”
“The church that ministers well to those in grief, loss and dying has a sound foundational theology and a rich vocabulary of worship,” Sharp writes. Any minister or congregational care-team member will be richly served by this book.
Virgil Fry is executive director of Lifeline Chaplaincy in Houston, a nonprofit dedicated to providing compassionate support to the seriously ill, their families and caregivers, and to being an educational resource for crisis ministry. Churches of Christ partner with Lifeline Chaplaincy.
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