For they shall be comforted : an examination of the liturgy, usage and adequacy of the funeral service in A New Zealand prayer book (1989) with reference to the grief of the bereaved
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Grief at the death of someone we love is a universal experience although no two people's grief is exactly the same. Lives are changed profoundly by grief, often negatively but sometimes positively. It is the aim of this study to present funerals as a potentially important factor in shaping the outcome of grief. The funeral is presented as having the main function of assisting the bereaved toward a healthy adjustment to the death of a loved one. The person primarily responsible for creating this focus at a funeral is the religious officiant still common at most funerals in New Zealand. The funeral is viewed as being primarily although not solely a 'pastoral office.' The work outlines the background against which the funeral in New Zealand can be viewed and gives an overview of the extensive writing on grief. In order to narrow the focus to manageable proportions I concentrate on the Anglican funeral service as laid out in A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989) and practised by Anglican priests in Christchurch and the surrounding districts. This focus is followed through by interviews with sixteen Anglican priests active in conducting funerals. I discuss their assessment of the funeral's ability to assist with the grief work of the bereaved and how in practical terms they achieve this aim. I quote widely from these interviews examining how different aspects of the funeral can assist with grief in both theory and practice. There are marked differences in the way that Anglican priests conduct funerals and employ the liturgy. Many make additions and omissions to the liturgy while some only use the material provided in the prayer book. The former generally place emphasis on the role of the service in assisting the bereaved with their grief work. The need for alterations and additions in the liturgy is particularly relevant in the case of bereaved with no strong commitment to Christian beliefs and practices who use a Christian officiant, content and structure for the funeral of someone close to them. The existing liturgy needs to be expanded and its structure reworked in order to more fully achieve the aim of assisting with the grief work of all who use the service. This focus by clergy on the personal function of the funeral is essential if the Christian funeral is to become a significant event with a relevance and a worthwhile purpose in our country. Otherwise it will increasingly become an empty tradition lacking in relevance and failing to fulfil its enormous potential.