- Understand some of the reasons for believing (or not believing) in the existence of God.
- Knowledge of the ways in which, according to believers, God can be known.
- Reflect upon their own memories of attending a funeral (where appropriate).
- Evaluate attitudes towards dead bodies and the way people show respect by their treatment of a body after death.
- Analyse Christian funeral rites to determine what they reveal about Christian belief concerning death and the afterlife.
- Evaluate the level of comfort that Christians sometimes draw from funerals of other Christians.
- Synthesise learning by writing brief sentences describing the purpose of each part of a typical Christian funeral service.
Ask if anyone in the class has ever been to a funeral. If anyone has, ask what they can remember about it. Whether or not you are aware of any recently bereaved members of the class, this is a subject that may require sensitive handling. Broaden the discussion out (to include those members of the class who have never attended a funeral) by asking the class to brainstorm the different things that they would expect to happen at a funeral. For example:
- Cremation or burial of the body.
- Bible reading.
- Someone saying what the deceased was like.
Explain that this lesson is going to be focused on funerals – what purpose they serve, and how they reflect Christian belief about what happens after death.
Introduce the following clip from the film The Hunger Games (Lionsgate, 2012, Certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online.
Explain that the film is set in a futuristic world where young people are forced to take part in a reality television show involving a fight to the death. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has formed an alliance with another contestant, a younger girl called Rue (Amandla Stenberg). In this clip they are putting into action their plan for Rue to distract the larger faction hunting them, allowing Katniss to destroy their enemies’ food supplies. Ask the students to pay particular attention to what happens to Rue and how Katniss responds.
- Start time: 1.30.10 (beginning of chapter 18 of the DVD)
- End time: 1.39.00
- Clip length: 8 minutes and 50 seconds
The clip starts with Katniss hiding in the bushes and waiting to make her move on her enemies’ camp. The first line is one of the other contestants saying, ‘Guys, guys – look!’ The clip ends after Katniss walks away from Rue’s body. Make sure to stop the film before Katniss turns and salutes the camera.
Ask the students why they think Katniss gathered flowers and placed them around Rue’s body and in her hands. What did she gain from doing this? What reasons might there have been for her to simply leave the body and move on?
Why do the students think that people feel the need to mark death with funerals? What difference does a funeral make? Why aren’t dead bodies just treated the same as any other refuse and thrown out quickly to avoid hygiene problems?
The Church of England’s website includes Anglican funeral liturgy. Click on the link below for a copy:
Photocopy the first page (the outline) and give it out to the class. Draw their attention to the prayers section, and ask who each of the prayers are for. Students might be surprised to notice that although the first of the four categories of prayer is ‘thanksgiving for the life of the departed’, all of the other prayers are focused on the mourners rather than the deceased. Christians believe that once someone dies, the funeral arrangements make no difference to the deceased, or to what happens to them in death. Rather, funerals are much more about helping the living in the process of grieving and moving on.
Ask the students to read through the funeral outline and to suggest the purpose and possible value of each element within it.
Hand out the second page from the funeral service outline, the one which includes a selection of Bible verses for the ‘gathering’ part of the funeral (the final quote, John 3:16 is partly cut off onto the next page). The missing words, which the class can write in, are ‘…who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.’ (We are assuming that you won’t be able to justify photocopying a whole page merely for the sake of a single line of text). Ask the class (either working individually or in pairs) to write a sentence for each passage identifying how they might be a source of hope for Christian mourners.
Explain to the class that many Christians report that they experience funerals of other Christians to be very joyful experiences, despite their sense of pain at losing a loved one. For example, when the entertainer Roy Castle died from cancer in the late 1990s, his wife Fiona said that she didn’t want people to be sad because Roy was now with his maker, his Lord and saviour, where he wanted to be and where she knew he would be happy. She asked the mourners not for tears, but for joy at his funeral.
Give everyone a copy of the Funeral handout, which contains a genuine first-hand account of a Christian funeral. Read it through with the class and ask for their comments: do they think that they would have found the funeral to be as comforting and positive an experience as the writer? What seems to be the most significant factors in the writer’s experience?
SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:
As a final exercise, ask the students to go through the outline of the funeral service and to write at least one sentence for each part of the funeral, stating what purpose it serves in the service, and whether this might be a source of hope and comfort for the mourners, particularly if the mourners are Christians.
YOU WILL NEED: