Integrating the pastoral care components of listening, prayer and presence for more effective funeral sermons

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Harris, Naomi O
Funeral Sermons; Pastoral theology; Church; Bereaved; Biblical Studies; Christianity; Counseling; Counseling Psychology; Ethics in Religion; Practical Theology
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This thesis begins with the argument that pastoral care and funeral sermon preaching can be synergized into one outreach ministry for the bereaved. An examination of the literature reveals support or non-support for the integration of pastoral care into funeral sermon preaching. Although the doctrines, rituals and practices reflected in this thesis are based on those of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the research draws on a broader interreligious spectrum. The conclusions are applicable across Christian denominations. The thesis addresses the problem that in their grief over the loss of a loved one, the bereaved stand in need and await a Gospel of truth accompanied by pastoral care. The thesis asserts that the funeral sermon that incorporates pastoral care components of listening, prayer, and presence must begin the journey to wholeness. Thus, the overarching research question in this thesis is how to generate guidelines for integrating these pastoral care components into the construction of the funeral sermon. The thesis explores Erickson's Theory of the Lifespan and Wimberly's Theory of Pastoral Care. From the former it takes the premise that, given nurturing, the human spirit has a capacity to restore itself after a traumatic experience. From the latter, it takes the concept of rhetorical preaching as essential to the construction of the funeral sermon. The author reports on qualitative research comprised of interviews, a focus group, document review of funeral sermon texts, and analysis of the author's personal experience in bereavement ministry. The guidelines that emerged as a result of this study show how to construct a funeral sermon that serves as a vehicle through which spiritual transformation and sacred healing can occur for the bereaved. The thesis recommends that veteran clergy and those new to bereavement ministry employ these guidelines in order to focus on offering pastoral care in the construction of the funeral sermon and as a fundamental component of bereavement ministry.