NEW ORLEANS (BP)–“I am sorry to tell you your husband has passed away,” the doctor told the elderly wife, who responded with a few quiet tears.
Jerry Barlow waited respectfully in the background, ready to comfort and pray with the grieving widow. He had just witnessed a man dying: the man’s breathing had become shallow, moving from his chest up. With his complexion changing color, the man took his last breath.
“I can’t tell you all I felt in those moments, but it was a very precious time,” the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary associate professor of preaching and pastoral work told his students in their last week of classes.
Standing beside a large brown casket that was recently donated as a new teaching aid for his pastoral ministries class, Barlow softly shared about the man’s funeral.
“It was the first funeral I ever did,” he said, reflecting on the man who passed away. “I still remember his laugh. He had a great laugh.”
While Barlow added the human element to the discussion, the presence of the casket helped reinforce the importance of pastoral ministry during funerals.
“Students in my Pastoral Ministry class were able to visualize more realistically how to minister to those needing comfort in the different events leading up to and including a funeral service and graveside service,” said Barlow, who often stood at the head of the casket during his lectures to show how to be available for each person as they paused to grieve before their deceased loved one.
The casket was an addition to the seminary’s Pastoral Ministry Chapel, a classroom that already contains a full-size baptistery, where students are given practical training in church ordinances as a part of their educational experience. The casket was donated by Gary Lambert of Batesville Casket Company, who was instrumental in arranging the casket donation after having been made aware by his daughter, NOBTS student Jennifer Jordan, of the seminary’s need for the teaching aid. Robert Crain and his son Rob of Crain Funeral Home in Franklinton, La., donated the casket cart.
Barlow, an experienced pastor with over 24 years of church leadership, offered many suggestions on conducting funerals, including one he has practiced numerous times. “When I talk with people as they remember their loved one, I try to discreetly write down their comments about the deceased person,” he said. “You’ll never know what you will be able to use in the expositional eulogy,” he said, in what he called his scripture-based message during the funeral service.
Concerning eulogies, he also offered another insight he has learned: don’t wait too long in the service for a family member to participate or to offer a brief eulogy, because they will likely become more emotional as the time passes. He also stressed the importance of the minister having the final say, to help draw people back to the Lord and the comfort that only He can provide.
“No matter how gruesome the time or circumstances of one’s death, it is precious in the sight of the Lord,” Barlow reminded the students. “When you conduct a funeral, it is a very precious time.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE.