Thursday, December 25, 2014

Presence: A Pastor's Guide to Funerals

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of review. My integrity is not for sale. Those who know me well are aware I would relish the chance to give a bad review in exchange for a free book. If I've failed to do so, it has nothing to do with the source of the material and only with the material itself.

This new book by Jon Twitchell is a revelation. A small, humble work of theology and practicality, helps pastors approach funerals, death, and grief from the experience of one who's officiated many hundreds of funerals in a variety of settings. I know Jon. We're friends, but even I was blown away with how well done the book is. Divided into four sections, covering context, theology, practics, and preparation, Presence contains much more than its subtitle suggests.

It is indeed a pastors guide and the audience is clear, but there is enough coverage of grief, mourning, and ministry to those in pain that anyone having to deal with such things could benefit. It is distinctly Christian, but in a way that can be universally applicable to funerals for all kinds of people. The writing style is careful and professional, but clear and mostly concise.

What shocked and impressed me most was the sheer volume of relevant, important information packed into just a few short pages. There are some sections I would have liked to be shorter and others I would have preferred to be longer, but all were useful and thought-provoking. The formatting was easy to use - short chapters, with associated pull-quotes from a variety of sources sprinkled throughout.

Frankly, I expected to provide a calm, quiet review of a mostly useful book. In the end, I am giving a more-than-ringing endorsement for a truly valuable tool. No pastor should go without having and reading this volume - even more so because it will only take an hour or two to read. Presence is not a how-to with lists of liturgies, prayers, and hymns (although there are some helpful appendices along these lines), it is a book of presence, as the title implies, helping pastors to find a place alongside grief as a representative of God.

Get it. Read it. Time well spent.

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