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Earthed in Hope - Print.

Earthed in Hope - Print.

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Earthed in Hope: Dying, Death and Funerals – A Pakeha Anglican Perspective.

Alister G. Hendery

Soft cover: 300 pages
Published: 26 November 2014
Language: English
Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 inches
Colour: Black and White
ISBN: 9781502488251

15+ in stock 18 Sep. 2023.

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Book description 

Earthed in Hope will enrich the funeral ministry both of those in the Anglican tradition and also those from other Churches. It is a valuable resource for funeral celebrants, counsellors and anyone supporting the bereaved and dying. Hendery reflects on and responds to spiritual, theological, liturgical, pastoral and cultural questions, and offers practical suggestions and insights that will be helpful to those involved in taking funerals and caring for the bereaved and the dying.

Earthed In Hope raises challenging and important questions, including:

  • What are the purposes of a funeral? People often speak of funerals being for the living, but what about the dead? What is their role at the funeral?
  • Why does contemporary society deny death and how do we help people face the reality of their mortality?
  • How do we minister in a pluralistic culture where people are ‘spiritual’ but not ‘religious’?
  • What is the difference between a Church funeral and a celebrant-led service?
  • How do we respond to the ever-increasing preference for cremation and the challenges this form of disposal presents?
  • How is grief expressed on the Internet and in what ways is the ‘Green Movement’ influencing the New Zealand way of death?
  • How do we pray for and remember the dead?
  • What is the Christian understanding of life after death and what place is there for doubt?
  • How did funeral services develop?

Since the 1970s, the funeral scene has undergone sweeping changes. Innovative funeral practices developed in New Zealand have been studied by and adopted in other countries. Life-centred funerals, led by celebrants, have become the norm and cremation is now much more common than burial.

When the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand revised all its liturgies, it produced the most comprehensive funeral rites in the Anglican Communion. They enable its ministers to respond creatively to the needs of the bereaved in a contemporary setting. The current New Zealand Anglican Liturgies are flexible and for the most part sound. Alister Hendery highlights places in which they can be enhanced and offers positive suggestions for improvement.

An overarching theme of Earthed In Hope is that while celebrant-led funerals provide a valuable service to the community, the Church is still well-positioned to work with the bereaved, conduct funerals and perform the various rituals associated with death. However, it must do things in a new way. Hendery urges the Church and its ministers to give more attention and priority to this vital aspect of Christian mission.

Hendery challenges the ‘stage-model’ of grief, which was put forward by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, Granger Westberg and others, offering examples of other ways of supporting and guiding the bereaved.

The words used at a funeral are very important, but rituals and actions can be even more important as they express the inexpressible. We need ritual when what we experience is too profound and significant for ordinary expression and routine words.

The funeral minister’s role is complex and demanding. It’s not just about reading words from a book or being a MC. Most importantly, it’s about being with the bereaved. Hendery argues that our contemporaries are looking for people who will hear their questions, respect their searchings, and journey with them as a friend in their pain and confusion.

He notes that as the medical profession has taken over care for the dying, so care of the dead has passed to the funeral industry. However, he believes the bereaved need to be encouraged and supported in taking a more hands on role in the care of their dead. This can be done in small but significant ways that help bring home the finality of death.

Hendery deals sensitively and in detail with the issues surrounding funerals for children and those who have suicided.


Reviewers comments

“A quick scan of death notices in a newspaper reveals the fading influence of Christian faith in this country. Many funerals now are held at a crematorium or a funeral director’s chapel. Some of these funerals will be taken by a minister of religion; but increasingly funeral directors and celebrants have taken over the traditional roles of a minister of the church. We live in a world where there are multiple views on “what comes next” after death, mostly at variance with the theological witness of scripture. Even church funerals often celebrate the life which has ended, rather than proclaiming Christian hope in the midst of grief and death.

This is the terrain surveyed by Hendery, a Pakeha Anglican priest. His writing is marked deeply by his trust and hope in God’s grace and equally by his long pastoral experience.…" Anne Priestley

“…For those concerned with funeral ministry there is much in this book that will repay careful reflection: how God and Christian hope are presented, the avoidance of euphemisms and idealistic eulogies, ritual at and after the funeral, funerals following suicide, funerals of children and children at funerals. Hendery states: We need to be able to look death in the face and be willing to wrestle with the theological, spiritual and emotional demands that this takes. Earthed in Hope offers significant help for those who are serious about doing this.” John Meredith, Touchstone June 2015

“The book is honest and sensitive, acknowledging issues of spirituality ‘verses’ religion, and recognises that so much of our culture is death-denying and uses euphemisms…The book is very well organised, there are clear headings, subheadings, notes, and a helpful bibliography and index.” Rev Bosco Peters

From the Foreword

“As a priest in my early twenties I became acquainted with death and dying in a way that puzzled and unsettled my friends. When most were starting out on their careers in diverse fields of endeavour we would meet to catch up. My stories of the work I was called to tended to be a conversation stopper. It was hard to convey the growing sense of deep privilege I was experiencing. It was hard to share the deep intimacy and grace that my role drew me into. And in most cases it was inappropriate to do so anyway.

One of the consequences of my comparative youth was that I found myself increasingly asked to lead funerals for children and young people. Few things stretched me more or left me feeling more impotent, and yet few aspects of my ministry were more fulfilling.

A key aspect of this work of a priest, for me at least, was a journey deep into my own self awareness which forced me to face my own mortality very early in my life. Far from being a sad and melancholy experience I found a deep and unshakeable joy through my encounter with so many families who were grieving the loss of someone they loved. I discovered, time and again, the abiding presence of God. While, more often than not, it was inappropriate for me to give explicit voice to this, I was frequently aware that those I was with had a profound sense of that presence too.

Alister Hendery is offering us a great gift in this beautiful, resource-filled and comprehensive book. He has aimed to assist those within Tikanga Pakeha of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand to undertake ministry with the dying and the bereaved with creativity and sensitivity. This book certainly achieves that goal. But it offers much, much more than that and I hope it will find a significantly wider audience. In simple and unassuming style Alister provides not only a comprehensive resource, but a wise, insightful and at times challenging guide across the uniquely privileged landscape the pastor is called to traverse.

Alister quotes Paul Tillich’s phrase ‘the first duty of love is to listen’. This book helps to tune the ear of the pastor who listens care-fully. I am going to place a copy of this book in the hands of every person I ordain from now on.”

+ Philip Richardson
Primate and Archbishop – Tikanga Pakeha


About the Author

Alister Hendery is an Anglican priest who has served in a wide variety of parish and diocesan settings. He has also worked in private practice as a counsellor, specialising in grief and loss, and as a funeral celebrant. Currently he is an interim priest, ministering with parishes in times of transition. Funeral ministry has been a focus of his life for 35 years. He has an ongoing interest in death studies and continues to journey with people experiencing loss and change in all spheres of life, as well offering mentoring and training to lay and ordained ministers. In addition to his extensive pastoral experience he has read widely on this topic and Earthed in Hope includes many insights from other writers both in New Zealand and overseas. Hendery is well placed to advise on the care of the dying, the bereaved and the dead.

To arrange for Alister to speak to your group, contact him at alisterhendery@



  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Definitions
  • Language
  • Referencing

1 — Introduction: A Changing Landscape

2 — Universal Dimensions

  • Doing Something with the Body
  • Making Space for our Mortality
  • Lost for Words – The Need for Ritual
  • Pastorally Caring

3 — Today’s Funeral Terrain

  • Personalised, Life-Centred and Celebrant-Led
  • Personal and Prospective
  • The Decades of Change – Facing up to Pluralism
  • Spirituality and Religion
  • The New Zealand Way of Death
  • Down the Green Path
  • Handling our Dead
  • Death in our Midst?
  • The Medicalisation of Death – A Denial of the Reality
  • The Uniqueness of Grief
  • Grief and Death on the Internet
  • Hope for Lost Travellers
  • The Impact of Tikanga Maori

4 — What Comes Next?

  • An Existential Niggle
  • Nature and Seasons
  • The Living Dead
  • Continuing Love and Heavenly Reunions
  • A Spiritual Potpourri

5 — How Might We Respond?

  • Threat or Opportunity?
  • God Present
  • Why are we Involved?
  • A Starting Point

6 — A Theological Story

  • Through a Glass Darkly
  • The Voice of A New Zealand Prayer Book
  • Death and Beyond in the Hebrew Scriptures
  • Going Along with the Pharisees
  • No. Plato, No
  • The Body Matters – The Reality Matters
  • Questions about Heaven and Hell
  • A Place for Doubt
  • The Most Searching of Questions
  • Let us Lament
  • Sitting Shiva

7 — A Liturgical Story

  • Lessons from the Early Centuries
  • The Peculiar Anglican Story
  • A New Zealand Story
  • Liturgies for the Journey

8 — A Time to Die

  • Ars Moriendi – Dying Well
  • Being with the Dying
  • Prayer at Time of Death
  • The Shape of the Liturgy
  • Prayer Before a Funeral
  • The Shape of the Liturgy

9 — The Funeral Service

  • The Shape of the Liturgy
  • Enhancing the Funeral – Additional Directions
  • Funeral Eucharist
  • Memorial Services
  • Arranging the Funeral
  • Musical Overtones
  • Tributes
  • The Address
  • Funeral Communities
  • Communal Ritual
  • Ritual for the Body
  • Ritual Flowers and Ritual Food
  • Guilt and Forgiveness
  • The Dead at their Funeral
  • Others at the Funeral

10 — Suicides

  • The Historical Legacy
  • A Cave of Agony and Darkness
  • At the Funeral

11 — Children

  • The Death of a Child
  • Death of a Newborn or in Pregnancy
  • Honouring and Treasuring
  • A Service for the Funeral of a Child
  • The Shape of the Liturgy
  • Children and Death
  • Dangerous Euphemisms
  • Children at Funerals

12 — Rites After the Funeral

  • Confusion at Cremation
  • Questions of Cremation
  • The Committal of Ashes
  • The Shape of the Liturgy
  • Prayers in the House After Death
  • The Shape of the Liturgy
  • The Unveiling of a Memorial
  • The Shape of the Liturgy
  • Beyond the Funeral Liturgies

13 — The Minister

  • A Multiplicity of Roles
  • Self Care
  • The Minister and Death

Selected Bibliography


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