Death and Dying

As a society we aren’t good at talking about death, and as individuals we may try and avoid thinking about it. This is made easier for us by the fact that the process of death has been largely handed over to professionals, so we rarely witness it, and many of us go through life without ever having seen the body of a person who has died. In many ways it is reasonable for us to try and keep our distance from death, for it is a deeply threatening reality.

Yet we cannot deal with threat by avoiding it forever, and society is beginning to wake up to this fact: ‘bucket lists’ have entered the vocabulary, death cafés are fairly commonplace, and have brought the topic of death and the process of dying out of the shadows and into the public arena. It turns out that many people, especially older people, would value an opportunity to talk frankly about what is sometimes known as ‘the last taboo’.

Churches have a key role. After all, it is the certainty of the resurrection that gives us our identity as Christians, and the message that we proclaim and try to live out is one of life in the midst of death and hope in the midst of loss. For ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’ (John 10:10). We have something significant to say.

It can be hard to communicate traditional Christian teaching on this vital topic in ways that make sense in the twenty-first century, even to regular churchgoers. The central truth of our faith seems to be the one that is hardest to communicate. We need to learn how to have proper conversations about this.

Prayer

In the end
We return
To the heart of matter.
To the heart of the matter:
That the love of God created us,
The spirit of God enlivened us,
And the mystery of God awaits us.
May the peace of God be with us
Now and forever.

Amen

Prayer by Alison Webster

Read

Living Well in the End Times by Joanna Collicutt — a Christian resource to support people to make peace with the prospect of death.

Death and Life website — all you need to lead workshops and discussions on themes of death and dying, produced by the Diocese of Oxford.

Find Out More

The Death and Life website has a useful resource list for where to find help.