Grieving Hearts in Worship offers an in-depth opportunity to answer challenging questions concerning a growing disconnect between how we grieve and how we worship God. Through the use of stories, poetry, creative worship services and thought-provoking discussions, Landon shares his unique understanding of the nature of our need for rituals in worship as a beneficial part of our journey towards healing. By exploring major thoughts and writings on grief, he identifies common threads, weaving together a living tapestry that expresses the depth of personal and communal experiences of grief. Reading this contemplative approach to discussing grief and its place in worship will open your eyes to a new way of seeing God’s love for the grieving. The book’s practical suggestions offer church leaders and members a blend of topics, worship services, and reflection questions that include: Attitudes About Death and Grief Annual Remembrance Services Finding Hope in Brokenness Anger and Vulnerability in Worship Rediscovering Joy Walking the Labyrinth When A Church Dies
invites pastors, leadership boards, worship leaders and congregants to enter into an on-going dialog regarding grief, resulting from the death of a loved one and the role of rituals as we worship God. In this book I discuss attitudes towards death, ways of talking about grief and the need for rituals. Six different models for worship services, each focusing on various dimensions of the grief experience, will be presented. For me this discussion began as a tiny seed of awareness that something was missing in our worship services, leading to a lack of authenticity and relevancy. I have journeyed through a variety of ministry contexts: small and large church pastorates, hospice chaplaincy and spiritual direction, small rural towns, suburbs, and downtown inner cities. In my journey I grew increasingly aware of the distance between grief and worship, and the impact that was having on our congregations, as well as our relationship with God. This distance, which I later named “disconnect”, became the underlying drive for working towards my Doctor of Ministry degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary. Grieving Hearts in Worship is a refinement of my final dissertation and project. As you read and engage in this discussion, it is important to know the soil in which my seed of awareness germinated—the foundation I built upon. As a pastor, spiritual director, and grief worker, I share what I have learned from my own personal grief and times of worship. I also share from the experiences of the countless number of people who I have had the privilege to accompany on their journey of grief. I bring my understanding and experience of the Reformed Tradition and in particular, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), as well as my strong commitment to ecumenical relationships. Though I am deeply rooted within the Christian faith, I am also aware of God’s truth and wisdom found in other faith traditions; giving me hope that one day all of God’s creation will know peace. At the core is how I understand humanity’s relationship with the Triune God. Here, I look to Scripture to nourish the taproot of my seed of awareness, as well as my whole being: So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them…God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. Genesis 1:27, 28a, 31a In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:1-5 Every person’s life and faith journey is an unfolding story. Our own unique story begins and ends with God. It is God who gives us life, creating us in God’s own image, blessing us, and seeing us as “very good.” This goodness does not leave us, because it is God’s goodness embedded in our very DNA. However, it does get covered up or distorted by our sinfulness. It is hidden by our ill-conceived choice to live independently of God, with the illusion that we are in control. What we believe about God, life and death has a direct impact on how we grieve and worship, and on how we interact in community. Though I have shared key elements of the foundation of my faith and beliefs, I have truly only scratched the surface. I am sure that as you read further there will be additional glimpses of my foundation’s depths, its strengths as well as its weaknesses. There will be issues raised that may cause you to pause and wonder, make your blood boil, shout for joy, weep in sorrow, and many other reactions. As I said in the beginning, this is an invitation to dialogue; therefore it stands to reason that we will each be approaching the subject from our own experiences and biases. Throughout Grieving Hearts in Worship, the reader will find multiple dimensions of meaning, and will be encouraged to integrate new experiences into their own journey of faith. Though grief, through the death of a loved one, and worship and its rituals are the primary focus of Grieving Hearts in Worship, there will be from time to time other issues raised that are connected to the main topic, but have additional implications for our churches and communities. For example, the growing disconnects between grief and worship may be a contributing factor in declining church membership and low involvement in the life of the church. Another is a perceived lack of authenticity as we worship. Do we bring our true and full selves as we worship or lead worship? Are our services truly welcoming and safe places to bare our souls, without fear of judgment or ridicule? There are many in our society hungering for a deeper sense of God’s presence, for healing and for hope, yet find it increasingly difficult to discover God within the church. It is my experience that as we more fully experience God in our lives, we are able to be more fully authentic, and our churches are better able to be a beacon of hope. The services and reflections presented in this book are the culmination of multiple retreats and small group discussions, worship services and countless conversations with the bereaved. Each offers the opportunity to deepen one’s awareness of God in worship as we grieve. Though the basic design of each service is mine, as are the majority of the written prayers and litanies; I have also used the work of others in creating some of the liturgies and readings. I have done my best to acknowledge the author of each liturgy. However, I have collected various liturgies over the years whose original source I have never known; many of these have been adapted, altered, or rewritten from their original form; in no way am I attempting to take credit for someone else’s artistic expression. I have also included the full text of what was spoken—minus the sermons in most instances—and indicated when it was not printed in the bulletin. The style of each service ranges from contemplative Taizé to traditional liturgical to more contemporary, as well as a blending of styles. There will be familiar elements and rituals, with some that have been altered. There will also be some elements and rituals that are new and different, that encourage moving out of one’s comfort zone. These may at first feel awkward and uncomfortable, but with time and practice, may begin to be more accepted than unusual. The six services are: “A Time to Remember”: a look at annual remembrance services for the church and larger community “Finding Hope in Brokenness”: when our hearts are broken and our lives feel shattered, hope can be found “Bring It All to God”: a look at anger and vulnerability in worship, discovering God is bigger than what we feel and not threatened by our feelings “Rediscovering Joy”: celebrating places of growth and signs of new life “Walking with Our Loved Ones on the Labyrinth”: experiencing an ancient spiritual tool in today’s world “When a Church Dies”: looking at the importance of worship when a church closes Each of the above chapters contains a service outline, a discussion concerning the rituals used, how they might impact the grief journey and open possibilities to reconnecting with God, self and others in worship and beyond. At the end of each chapter is a section, “For Conversation and Reflection” to help facilitate group conversations around the different topics. Whether discussed within a leadership board, clergy group, worship or Christian education committee, or other group configuration, it will be more beneficial for depth of conversation, sharing and application if participants have read the chapter ahead of time.
The Reverend Dr. Michael E. Landon holds a Bachelor of Arts, in Sociology with an emphasis in Social Welfare from California State University, Northridge; a Master of Divinity, from McCormick Theological Seminary; a Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction and a Doctor of Ministry, from San Francisco Theological Seminary. Prior to entering the ministry, he worked as a psychiatric social worker with the homeless and the homeless mentally ill. As an ordained minister (teaching elder) in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Michael has served in several different capacities. He has been both solo pastor and associate pastor, serving small rural congregations, intercity and suburban congregations. Michael has also served as a hospice chaplain and bereavement coordinator. For a number of years he has offered spiritual direction, and has served as a facilitator for a spiritual direction training program at the Benedict Inn, Beech Grove, Indiana. As a trained labyrinth facilitator, he has offered labyrinth retreats and workshops. He has been a popular speaker and retreat leader on topics of grief, spirituality and dementia, forgiveness, prayer, and various aspects of living with chronic disease. Michael’s next book will be focusing on reflections on faith and living with chronic disease – sharing his own journey of living with chronic disease and finding God’s deep abiding presence within. Michael lives in central Indiana with his wife and two teenage daughters.
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I have read Michael Landon's book Grieving Hearts In Worship and was quite impressed in that it should be one of which many pastors and lay workers would benifit. It should be benificial to pastors in training as well. The book has laid out a step by step plan for it's objective. Michael Landon has used his years of experience and education in putting together a very useful book of Christian helps. I found the book to have a good human interest as well.