New resource helps churches support bereaved
For anyone who’s struggled to know what to say to someone who’s lost a loved one, a booklet by a Baptist minister aims to provide the right words at the right time
On the morning of Ken Benjamin’s wedding day, as he was shaving in the bathroom, he heard his mum shout from his parent’s bedroom. His father, who had been ill for months, had died.
Now a Baptist minister, Ken says that this experience has impacted all the funerals he’s taken.
“I’m not a passive observer of grief,” he says. He understands that the helpful words people want to offer to the bereaved are only helpful if they’re given at the right time.
With this in mind, Ken, the minister of Chichester Baptist Church, has written a booklet Some words for another time which he hopes will provide people who’ve lost a loved one with comfort and reassurance.
“I really wrote it for myself,” explains Ken. “As a minister, there are words you feel aren’t appropriate to say at a funeral, so I wrote this. Some colleagues wanted access to it so I turned it into a book.”
“Often it’s sometime down the line before people start processing the bigger questions and it can be good to give the book at this point. But some people are ready to read it right away,” he adds.
Ken published the 40-page booklet in August 2014 and since then he’s had some positive feedback. He shares that one church ordered 200 copies and gave them all away at the end of a funeral service.
And, a few weeks ago, he had a phone call from a minister who was given this book because he’d recently been bereaved. “He said he found it very helpful and would be giving it to others in the future,” says Ken.
“There’s a chapter about waves and tides that a lot of people refer to as being significant for them,” Ken explains. “We often think grief will be like a tide coming in and that we can predict the moments we will be affected by it, like anniversaries and birthdays, but it often comes in waves – you don’t know when it will hit you.”
Perhaps one of the barriers to knowing the right words to say to someone who has experienced a loss is the fact that in the UK death is often not talked about openly. Even in churches, and even in spite of the eternal hope Christians hold onto, the subject of death tends to be avoided.
“I think in our culture people are afraid that thinking about death will make them look at their priorities in life. I think we’ve inherited that culture in the church and yet talking about death can be very life enhancing. Actress Susan Sarandon once said, ‘It’s good to have to think about death. Death’s what’s real in life. It’s just that we find ways to be busy. People say that if we thought about death all the time we’d go mad, but maybe we’d go sane.’ ”
The book, which is short enough to read in one sitting, is, according to one reviewer, ‘just the right sort of length and has a very clear, accessible and engaging style … it is written with terrific sensitivity and compassion.’
“The book can be given to Christians or non-believers,” says Ken. “It’s lightly evangelistic but it does point people to our eternal hope.”
Some words for another time (09525357) can be purchased from the Baptist Union shop, priced at £1.50 each or £10 for a pack of 10.
Book design by Tim Charnick