At the beginning of the 21st century, the Christian Church continues to minister to the dying and the bereaved. However, it does so in a rapidly changing world. The traditional understandings of death and life after death are challenged by the disciplines of medicine, the law, philosophy, psychology and anthropology. This two-volume study of Christian funerary theology and practice presents an account of funeral rites and the central issues involved for compilers and users. The author writes from direct experience of conducting funerals and of drafting liturgical resources for others. In Volume I, Dr Sheppy argues that the Church ought to construct its theological agenda in dialogue with other fields of study. He argues for a Christian statement about death that finds its basis in the Paschal Mystery, since human death must be explained by reference to Jesus' death, descent to the dead and resurrection. Using the three phases of van Gennep's theory of rites of passage, the author shows how the Easter triduum may be seen as normative for Christian liturgies of death.
Volume II reviews a wide range of current Christian funeral rites and examines how they reflect both the Church's concern for the death and resurrection of Christ and the contemporary secular demand for funerals which celebrate the life of the deceased.
Paul P.J. Sheppy is a Fellow of the Centre for Baptist History and Heritage at Regent's Park College, University of Oxford and a Baptist minister in pastoral charge of a congregation in Reading, England. From 1987 to 2002 he was a member of the Joint Liturgical Group of Great Britain, serving as its Secretary from 1994. During the latter period, he was a member of the English Language Liturgical Consultation. He has been a member of the Churches' Funerals Group since 1997 and continues to serve as a Trustee of the Joint Liturgical Group. Paul Sheppy has written extensively on liturgical issues - in particular on liturgy and death. Most recently, his major review of Anglican funeral rites was published by the University of Tubingen in the encyclopaedic Im Angesicht des Todes. He is also the author of In Sure and Certain Hope, a collection of original liturgical resources for use at funerals.