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Pastoral Skills: Caring for the Dying and the Grieving
This course, intended for both practicing clergy and those preparing for local church ministry and chaplaincy, will provide practical training in the care of those who are dying and their families, as well as in the range of skills needed for meaningful effective ministry after death has taken place. Topics will include end of life planning and decision making, ethical and spiritual considerations of terminal illnesses, and navigating social, cultural and ecclesiastical expectations. The course will also offer instruction in funeral planning and leadership for both church members and nonmembers, options in and analysis of emerging death practices and theological understandings, and tools for appropriate pastoral care in advance of and following end of life rituals.
Mondays, from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., beginning September 12 (15 weeks)
Students will be graded on class attendance (see below) and participation, the submission of five reflection papers during the semester, and one final paper articulating a personal ethic of pastoral care for the dying and the grieving.
Attendance in class is required. If you know you will be unable to attend a class session please inform the professor in advance. Missing two sessions will result in an automatic lowering of your final grade by 10%. Missing three or more sessions will result in automatic failure of the course.
Topics of Classes:
September 12: INTRODUCTION
REFLECTION #1 DUE
An overview of the course and an opportunity to get to know one another and the experiences and expertise we all bring to the issues of dying, death and funerals.
It will also be a time to discuss goals, hopes and expectations.
September 19: DYING IN AMERICA
Reading: Kaufman p. 21-84, 104-114, 120-126, 139-143, 161-166, 191-201, 242-248, 296-303
This class will look briefly at the history of the dying process in America, with the bulk of the time looking at contemporary issues and situations. We will address
both long-term illness and sudden/violent deaths. The bulk of the time will be spent examining and discussing case studies from Kaufman’s book.
September 26: PLANNING FOR DEATH
Since, as Kaufman notes, most people die in hospitals and there is often a great deal of decision making that goes into that process, we will spend time discussing what a “good death” is and how we might help people and families to achieve that. This class will focus on Advance Directives and other tools that we can offer people to help them prepare for death.
October 3: FIELD TRIP TO HOSPICE
In preparation for 10/10, read Weingarten, chapters 1-5
This will be an opportunity to learn first hand about the Hospice movement and the kind of care that is provided in and through their facilities.
October 10: CARING FOR THE CAREGIVER
Reading: Weingarten chapters 6-10
We are, no doubt, affected by the challenges and trauma of helping people through the dying and grieving process. It is essential, therefore, as we think about how we can best help others that we also spend time learning about how our work can affect us and how we can best care for ourselves. Our discussion will focus primarily around the text, Common Shock by Kaethe Weingarten.
October 17: THEOLOGIES OF DEATH AND THE AFTERLIFE
Reading: Johnson and McGee, pp. 132-159, 170-178, 193-204
What are the theologies of death held by various religious traditions? How do these compare to the actual beliefs of the dying and their families, and influence the expectations brought to religious leaders at time of death? As religious leaders, what are our personal theologies of death and beliefs about an afterlife, and how do we balance differences in understanding between the bereaved, the tradition, and the religious leader?
October 24: THE FUNERAL HOME AND ITS ALTERNATIVES
Reading: Laderman, Prologue, Introduction, Chapters 1, 4 & 5
The American funeral home provides important services at the time of death, but is often misunderstood and maligned in that role. This class will orient us to the funeral “industry,” and how knowledgeable religious leadership on the subject is essential to overall pastoral care. We will also explore the changes in the funeral business, many of which reflect changing attitudes toward death both culturally and individually. We will use this class as an orientation to the funeral home visit the following week.
October 31: FIELD TRIP TO A FUNERAL HOME
This will be an opportunity to have a “behind-the-scenes” look at a funeral home and to learn more about the choices available to families. Clarity about funeral home practices enables religious leaders to more effectively partner with those who provide other essential services at time of death.
November 7: CONDUCTING FUNERAL AND BURIAL SERVICES
Reading: The funeral/burial service(s) from your tradition (bring copies)
Long, Chapters 6-9
Legood and Markham, Chapters 7-9
This class will identify and explore the components and practice of funeral and burial services, and though the lens for this study will primarily be Christian, we will focus on the dimension of pastoral leadership common to many, if not all, religious traditions.
November 14: FUNERALS FOR THE UNAFFILIATED
Reading: Selection from J. Lee,
Garces-Foley, “Funerals of the Unaffliliated,” Omega 23:3 (1990-1):159-172
Gamino, et al in Cox, et al, pp. 13-27
Religious leaders are frequently called upon to officiate at funeral services for those who do not have any formal connection to a religious community, have a strained or broken relationship with it, or are survived by family members who profess different or nonexistent beliefs. What are the issues involved in providing pastoral care in these circumstances, and how does one organize a funeral service which balances the beliefs of all involved, including the leader?
November 21: PASTORAL CARE OF FAMILY AND COMMUNITY AFTER DEATH
Reading: Mitchell & Anderson All our Losses, All our Griefs
In many cases, our relationships with the surviving members of a family does not end with the burial service. This class will look at how we can care for individuals, families and faith communities in the aftermath of death - both predicted and sudden/tragic. Few people who will have been a part of the immediate events surrounding a death continue to have a relationship with families. As faith leaders, we have a unique opportunity to provide continuity and support, and so we will focus on providing skills and tools to best enable us to do just that.
November 28: COMPLICATED MOURNING
Reading: Rando, Chapters 2, 4, 6, 9, 11, 12
Not everyone deals with death easily or in a straightforward manner. As those who shepherd people through the dying and grieving process, it is important for us to be aware of what “normal” grief/mourning looks like and also to be alert to the signs and symptoms of “complicated mourning.” There are times when a loss that can trigger psychological issues/problems that are beyond our skill set and require referral.
December 5: INTEGRATING DEATH INTO MINISTRY
Reading: Legood and Markham, Chapter 5
Faithful pastoral leadership is necessarily inclusive of all of life’s experiences, including death. This class will explore strategies for incorporating the reality of death into the fabric of our ministry, including enabling families to think about and participate in advance planning for funeral and burial services as statements of their faith.
December 12: STUDENT PRESENTATIONS
In preparation for final papers on one’s personal theology of death, students will offer 10 minute oral presentations outlining the key elements of their own theologies. This will be an opportunity for us to be further enriched by each other’s own learning and insights.
December 19: WRAP UP
This will be a time to reflect on the course as a whole, tie up any loose ends and to explore how we can best take what we have learned with us into our future ministries.
Reflection Paper 1: DUE SEPTEMBER 12
In five pages describe your personal and professional experiences with dying and death. Please also include your expectations and hopes for the class.
Reflection Paper 2: DUE OCTOBER 3
In five pages reflect on the dying process in America. Using either a case from Kaufman or one from your own experience, describe the issues at stake (with particular focus on spiritual needs) and how you as a pastor would/should have minister(ed) to the patient and family in the situation. Please also note how the particular issue of the case you are discussing relate to broader historical and societal issues in America.
Reflection Paper 3: DUE OCTOBER 17
In five pages describe the theology of the afterlife to which you ascribe as a person of faith, and that which you promote as a religious leader. If they are different, explain how and why. Describe how your views have been influenced by a variety of sources (scripture, tradition, cultural beliefs/practices, personal experience, etc.).
Reflection Paper 4: DUE OCTOBER 31
In five pages, drawing on the readings for 10/24, provide your own assessment of how one’s body is cared for after death in contemporary America. Do you agree with current practices? What are the problems that have been identified by others and that you see? What are the best practices that should be continued and what needs to be changed? How can religious leaders be a part of that change?
Reflection Paper 5: DUE NOVEMBER 14
In five pages, reflect on the experience of the two field trips. What was it like for you to visit these facilities as a professional and an observer? What new information did you gain from these visits? How might that information inform and affect your future ministry?
FINAL PAPER: DUE DECEMBER 19
In 10-15 pages, develop and articulate your own theology of death. Your theology must include the following sections (you are free to add others as well):
Why we die; God and Death; Human Dignity; Funeral and Burial Practices; and the Afterlife. Your paper should draw on both the readings for class as well as resources from your own tradition. You will be graded on the logical coherence of your theology as well as your ability to articulate it, rather than on its content.
BOOK LIST for AM-643
Bowman, George. Dying, Grieving, Faith, and Family. New York: Haworth
Pastoral Press, 1998.
Byock, Ira. Dying Well. New York: Riverhead Books, 1998.
Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Death and Dying. New York: Touchstone, 1997.
Chapman, Mary Beth et.al. Choosing to See. Grand Rapids: Revell, 2010.
*Cox, Gerry R., Robert A. Bendiksen, Robert G. Stevenson, eds., Making Sense
of Death: Spiritual, Pastoral, and Personal Aspects of Death, Dying and
Bereavement, Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing Co., 2003.
*Garces-Foley, Kathleen, “Funerals of the Unaffiliated,” Omega, 46:4 (2002-3):
Garrett, Greg. Stories from the Edge. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press,
*Johnson, Christopher Jay and Marsha G. McGee, eds., How Different Religions
View Death and the Afterlife, Philadelphia, PA: Charles Press, 1988.
*Kaufman, Sharon. --and a Time to Die. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
*Laderman, Gary. Rest in Peace: A Cultural History of Death and the Funeral
Home in Twentieth-Century America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Lester, Andrew. Hope in Pastoral Care and Counseling. Louisville: Westminster
John Knox Press, 1995.
*Long, Thomas C. Accompany Them with Singing—the Christian Funeral.
Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 2009.
Lynch, Thomas. The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade. New York:
Penguin Books, 1997.
*Markham, Ian and Giles Legood. A Funeral Guide: Christian Hope, Christian
Practice. Peabody, MA: Hendrikson Publishers, Inc, 2003.
*Mitchell, Kenneth and Herbert Anderson. All Our Losses, All Our Griefs.
Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1983.
Mitford, Jessica. The American Way of Death Revisited. New York: Vintage
Nouwen, Henri. The Wounded Healer. Garden City: Image Books, 1990.
Nuland, Sherwin B. How We Die: Reflections of Life’s Final Chapter, New York:
*Rando, Therese. Treatment of Complicated Mourning. Champaign: Research
Robben, Antonius. Death, Mourning, and Burial. Cambridge: Blackwell
*Weingarten, Kaethe. Common Shock: Witnessing Violence Everyday. New
York: Penguin, 2004.
Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Lament for a Son. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987.
Wolterstorff, Nicholas and Michael Bush. This Incomplete One. Grand Rapids:
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006.