Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Book 2 of 2018 -- The Lifesaving Church

One of the most challenging issues for a faith community to address is suicide. A few years back I was at a community meeting to discuss an uptick in suicidal ideation and behaviour in town and one of the local clergy said that he never knew how to prepare a sermon for someone who had died by suicide (because he said he did not know "where they were", had they died in good relation with God) [at the same meeting a supposed youth pastor in town said he did not understand why these kids were suicidal because they had no idea what actual suffering was, the ministry people at that meeting were somewhat less helpful than everybody else in the room].

How do we bring things like grace and mercy and forgiveness and love into a suicide situation?

This book by Rachael Keefe does just that. And does it really well. A large part of the power of the book is that it is memoir. Keefe is able to speak from her own experience after much self- and theological reflection on that experience.

AS a piece of writing the book is a light read. The whole volume is 102 pages, including 6 Appendices of resources for the church (clergy and layfolk) to consider in ministering to those who are struggling with issues around suicide and those who are on an arc that may take them to the brink of suicidal choices. The text is approachable and the memoir aspect makes it narrative, which draws the reader in.

At the same time there were times I found the book very challenging to read. At an emotional level that is.  If one is going to take seriously the challenges to the Body of Christ that Keefe raises up in these chapters (each of which is titled "The Body of Christ  ________"), if one is going to allow oneself to sit in and with her story, one is going to be struck to the heart.  More than once I had to take a break before moving to the next chapter, or the next section of a chapter, to stop and process what the story and reflection were bringing up within myself.

I almost didn't right this whole review. My first response as a review of this was to simply say "Read this book! Make sure there is a copy in the library of your church. Make sure there is a copy at the local Suicide Prevention office so they can lend it to church-folk. Read it as a group of care-ers and ask how ready we are to admit that the Body of Christ is all these things" Those sentences still stand. This is a very good book on a topic most of us do not want to talk about.

 DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book with the promise to post a review of it.

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