CHRISTIAN PRACTICES FOR
& Richard Payne
Geoffrey W. Sutton
“Dying is a spiritual event with medical implications,” opined Gwen London, the former director of the Institute on Care at the End of Life at Duke University (xv).
“By encouraging a reflective dialogue between the practices of medicine and Christian practices, this book, we hope, will provide a unique space within which the movement toward faithful dying can be encouraged, nurtured, and actualized (xxiv).”In the first section, the authors encourage a focus on ways to encourage people to live life well. An abundant Christian life focuses upon God and attempts to develop a heavenly perspective on life events. The hope is that this worldview will better enable Christians to find meaning in dying and the common co-occurrence of suffering. A Christian perspective also entails that we belong to God in life and in death and that any given life or death is a part of the larger Christian community.
Suffering is the focus of the chapters in the second section. Using touching examples, the authors avoid the troublesome problem of theodicy by choosing instead to focus upon the practical theology of guiding individuals and families through painful experiences at the end of life. A key focal point is the cross of Christ and a remembrance of his suffering when celebrating the Eucharist. Themes of forgiveness and reconciliation also serve to enhance an individual’s relationship with God at the end of life. This section contains the lone contribution by a mental health professional. Psychologist, Tonya Armstrong, offered suggestions on helping dying children and their families.
The third and final section offers reflections on Practices of Healing and Hope. The authors discuss such topics as forming a collaborative health care team, reframing the notion of hope when dying, and including compassion and meaning when ministering to people nearing the end of their lives.
Overall, Living Well and Dying Faithfully is a helpful starting point for a discussion on what it means to help people approach the end of their life from a Christian perspective. A common theme throughout is the search for the role of Christian spirituality within an American culture that has medicalized the death experience with an aggressive focus on leveraging technology in the hope of squeezing out a few more breaths before life ends.