Thomas G. Long wrote Accompany Them With Singing – The Christian Funeral before he co-wrote The Good Funeral with Thomas Lynch.
The book focuses more clearly on the funeral as Christian worship, and the way in which Christian convictions shape the form and practice of funerals as a distinctive expression of Christian worship.
Coming before the latter book, Long here introduces some of the critique of modern funeral practice in which older expressions have been set aside or modified in what might seem to be a response to modern sensitivities, but which in reality drains the service of its true substance. While modern funerals might seem to better equip people to go on with their lives, they have emptied themselves of their base purpose, which is to nurture people to go into eternity.
In a funeral, what is true about all worship, namely, that the gospel story is reenacted in dramatic form, comes to particular focus around the occasion of a death. The major theme of a funeral is the gospel story, and the life story of the person who has died is a motif running through this larger theme; perhaps more precisely, a funeral is about the intertwining of these two narratives. At a Funeral, the faithful community gathers to enact the promises of the gospel and the convictions of the Christian faith about life an death, as they are refracted through the prism of the life of the one who has died.
To say that a funeral is a gospel liturgical drama seems simple and true, but this is precisely one of the aspects of the Christian funeral most obscured and crusted over by so many contemporary funeral customs. When it is clear that the funeral is a dramatic reenactment of the gospel, this shines a bright light on what a funeral is not. Despite popular misconceptions, a funeral is not primarily a quiet time when people gather to reflect on the legacy of the deceased, a devotional service dealing with grief, a show of community support for the mourning family, or even a “celebration of life.” Good funerals, in fact, do all of these things console the grief-stricken, remember and honor the deceased, display community care, and give thanks for all the joys and graces experienced in the life of the one who has died. But these are some of the consequences of a good funeral, not its central meaning or purpose.
Thomas G. Long, Accompany Them With Singing – The Christian Funeral, Westminster John Knox Press, 2013 paperback edition, originally published 2009, pg. 78.