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The Ringmaster: A Clergy Guide to Funerals/Memorials/Wakes in the African American Tradition: Second Edition

The Ringmaster: A Clergy Guide to Funerals/Memorials/Wakes in the African American Tradition: Second Edition

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The Ringmaster: A Clergy Guide to Funerals/Memorials/Wakes in the African American Tradition: Second Edition

186 pages
2 heures
Jan 31, 2020


Fulfilling the demands of clergy persons when a member dies is both diverse and challenging. Presumptions are made as to your expertise and prior experience with similar circumstances. But what happens when expectations are higher than your preparation, who can you turn to for support?

I offer the Ringmaster as a tool to help you navigate the waters. This book is an intimate look at actual death and grief events and examples of the care provided from the initial response through the burial and beyond. It also includes examples of how death can impact the church and broader communities and the depth of response required.

This book is not a textbook or a theological thesis. It is written as an overview and glimpse at my 35 years of ministry to persons dealing with the passing of one loved one, to those who have suffered the unimaginable death of many in one family. 

Could you benefit from a discussion of your response to a family's desire to have someone other than you conduct the eulogy?

Clarifying and communicating your position on cremation.

If it's appropriate to give an invitation to accept Christ during a funeral service or memorial?  Is it Ministry or Manipulation?

What if you had a resource that explores topics not covered normally in Seminary or Bible College? Imagine having a tool that includes a list of appropriate Old and New Testament Bible Scriptures for funerals, wakes of memorial services.  If so, then this resource is for you.

The Ringmaster is written to address those whose ministry is primarily to persons in the African-American Community, to those who must deal with the ethos of black grief. This is not to suggest in any way that all grief is not shared equally or that one is of greater importance than another. But this serves to accentuate that the cultural aspect of black grief is an entity unto itself.

There is really nothing quite like black grief.  Purchase your copy now.

Jan 31, 2020

À propos de l'auteur

Pastor Beverly Freeman has spent over 35 years helping people in times of grief.  As the pastor the Victory Temple Christian Life Center in Dallas, she understands the need to come alongside those who are experiencing pain and sorrow. Serving as Chapel Speaker at Paul Quinn College for ten years added another dimension to being an active participant in the journey of life. Part of what gives her life is the love of travel.  Her favorite places to visit are the Caribbean, West, South and Southern Africa. Rev. Freeman is a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. Among her honors and accomplishments: Featured speaker at the Dallas Black Academy presentation of “Black Preaching in the Literary Tradition.” Featured in Our Texas Magazine  “The Calling/Millennia Women- Sexism in the Pulpit.”  Named “Woman of Color” in the field of Religion by Paul Quinn College. Member of Board of Directors -- “Faith Focus Television” (NBC5) -      sponsored by the Greater Dallas Community Council of Churches

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The Ringmaster - Beverly Freeman



Why didn’t someone tell me…?

An Introduction

To say that I have attended hundreds of funerals is not an exaggeration or hyperbole. While that does not make me an expert by any means, it does give credence to the statement that I’ve sort of seen it all: the good, the bad and the great.

Furthermore, I expanded my knowledge as a former member of the North Texas Conference Board of Examiners for Ministers in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where I was responsible for the training and mentoring of Ministerial Candidates for Ordination. During my tenure, the complaint which was lodged of both seminarians and newly assigned pastors alike was: Why didn’t someone tell me how to do that? Adjustments were made to better prepare new clergy for the daunting tasks at hand, but to be fair, some intricacies, nuances, tips, and techniques are more caught than they are taught. Moreover, some pastors have been doing what they do for so long they’ve forgotten how it was when they first began.

Therefore, Oh Excellent New/Old Clergy Person, I have set out to remember and record my observations and experiences in juxtaposition with biblical truths to assist you in the journey that lay ahead.

If you’ve picked up this book and you’re in crisis mode because the funeral is imminent, go immediately to the chapters titled "Help! It’s the Day of the Funeral and Tips For New Clergy." There you will find a summary of steps that prayerfully will be beneficial to you.

As we travel together, I will share truths and insights that I’ve gained along the way, based on biblical directives. If you are not facing a critical situation, don’t skip ahead, but rather journey with me through a composite of actual events and experiences, and the wisdom I’ve learned from those who have gone on before. And as you do, you will be amazed to discover the many things that people think you already know about your ministry to them as they grieve. You announced your call to the ministry, and surely, if God called you, then you must have all the answers, Right?--Wrong!

Much of the insight shared in the early chapters of this book was obtained from observing and working alongside my father-in-ministry, the Reverend Dr. Drinkard Timms, Jr., who was a master pastor and preacher. As a Bishop College graduate, he studied under the illustrious Reverend Dr. Caesar A. W. Clark venerated former Senior Pastor of the Good Street Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. Whether it was Dr. Clark’s influence or his own inimitable style, there is no dispute that Dr. Timms was a true ringmaster at conducting final rites that comforted, challenged, and changed all who were present. I still recall the times vividly as we sat in the pulpit during one of the many funeral services–how he would throw his head back and shake it side to side as he said to me, Bev, there is nothing quite like black grief.

So, this book is written to address those whose ministry is primarily to persons in the African-American Community: to those who must deal with the ethos of black grief. This is not to suggest in any way that all grief is not shared equally or that one is of greater importance than another. But this statement serves to accentuate that the cultural aspect of black grief is an entity unto itself.

Anyone who reads this book will be able to glean insight and reap its benefit. And the vast majority of the information will be useful to any Minister in any Christian Community. But I make no apologies for writing from my own experience because there really is nothing quite like black grief.

In churches that have multiple staff positions often, there is a staff person(s) designated as the Pastoral Care Minister or Minister of Bereavement who would be the point person for much of what I will discuss. However, this book is chiefly written to assist the needs of a Pastor or Clergy person who has to do it all. The important thing is not who serves the needs of the parishioner but instead that the help is there when needed.

The title of this book, The Ringmaster, is taken from a Sermon Series preached by the Reverend Dr. Timms, Jr. at the Saint Paul AME Church, Dallas, Texas in the mid-1980s. Pastor Timms was a gifted preacher and pulpiteer who often preached cyclically through sermon series. One such memorable series was based upon the life and ministry of John the Baptist as recorded in the First Chapter of the Gospel of Saint John. Over six weeks, Pastor Timms illustrated the purpose, power, and prerequisite of the ministry of John the Baptist as the forerunner of Jesus Christ.

John 1:6-8

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

With a surgeon’s skill, he intricately crafted and interweaved the life of John the Baptist as a precursor, a herald, a ringmaster to the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. John described his mission with the words of the Prophet Isaiah: as the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3, John 1:23 NKJV)

Dr. Timms masterfully used the imagery of the Ringling Brothers Barnum Bailey Circus Ringmaster to elucidate John’s ministry. The Ringmaster, he said, "is responsible for setting things in order, moving things along and keeping the crowd engaged. However, the Ringmaster is never the main act. He or she understands that their primary purpose is to command the crowd’s attention and then direct them to the center ring and the main attraction. Then they quietly fade away."

This analogy will be helpful to keep in mind as we take this excursion. When considering the expectations and responsibilities that fall to clergy persons, it is essential to remember that you are NOT the main act; you should NOT be the center of attention. You are there to direct the focus to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. For without the power and presence of God, anything and everything else that you do, as the Apostle Paul said: will become like sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.

1 Corinthians 13:1.

So, let’s begin…


The Jubilation of Mourning

An Origin of Black Grief

IHAD A PERSONAL ENCOUNTER with the authentic origin of Black Grief in March of 1991. It was during my first ministry journey to West Africa. I was really excited about the opportunity to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams of visiting the Motherland. Therefore, I was thrilled to be invited to travel with Bishop John Richard Bryant and the Rev. Dr. Cecelia Williams Bryant on their ministry excursion to Ghana. But it was so much more than I could have ever imagined! While in the capital city of Accra, I was invited to preach in a way that was new for me. It was my first time to experience preaching with an interpreter. I was grateful for the opportunity but a little nervous about learning to adjust the cadence of preaching to allow space and time for the interpretation which followed. But I soon got the hang of it. It was a hugely rewarding experience. While in Accra, I and several other ministers from the United States would venture each day after ministry events to the Central Marketplace Forex to exchange our currency and do a little shopping. The following week, we traveled 500 miles inland to Kumasi. It is the old capital city of Ghana and remains the capital of the Ashanti people. During this visit, I was a part of a delegation of ministers invited to the Manhyia Palace, the seat of the Asantehene (king of kings), for an audience with the highest ruler of the Ashanti people. This honor is rarely extended.

Bishop John graciously extended another opportunity for me to preach and teach during the Kumasi Annual Conference. But unlike my experience in Accra, having only one interpreter, this time, I would be preaching with three interpreters due to the number of languages spoken by the vast multitude gathered from all over the nation. As I began to preach, I made note that two of the ministers assisting me were not only interpreting my words but also my facial expressions and gestures. However, I was somewhat perplexed because the third person that I had been told would be providing translation was not standing with us. Nonetheless, even with only two interpreters, my 25-minute sermon extended well over an hour with the echoing of my words in other languages. Then an astonishing thing occurred as I concluded the sermon and sat down. A slender young African sister stood up and walked to the microphone. She then preached my complete sermon, with appropriate pauses and gestures in her native language without any notes. At that moment, I saw first-hand the remarkable accuracy of how oral history was passed from one generation to another. It was vivid evidence that we can trust the oral history that has been passed generation to generation.

On another day, while in Kumasi, a group of women came to take us to the marketplace where we could purchase some gifts and crafts to take home. This differed vastly from when we went to the forex and market every day while in Accra. Due to the activities of the Annual Conference in Kumasi, we only had time for ministry and worship services. So, this would be our one fun getaway day. I had read about Momma Benz’s in the Wall Street Journal, as they are called, strong women who rule the marketplace and regulate prices. Their nickname is derived from the fact that they all drive the latest Mercedes Benz and live in mansions. When we arrived, we parked in front of one such shop and looked around briefly but soon left and began walking down what appeared to be a narrow alley located between several buildings. Just let me say, I was in no way prepared for what I saw next.

It was a sea of humanity! My senses were overwhelmed with the sights and sounds, along with the smells of spices, meats, and produce. I was amazed by what I saw. I have no idea exactly how many people were in this open-air marketplace, but I would guesstimate many thousands.

Our guides were walking fast; it was difficult to keep up. The ground was uneven, and there were so many people packed into this vast space that it was unpreventable not to brush against or bump into another person as we walked. Immediately the Words of Christ came to my mind: Who touched me and the confusion of the Disciples who responded, Who touched you, everyone is touching you. That’s how it was as we moved deeper and deeper into the crowd. Everyone was touching everybody; you couldn’t help but touch as we walked. However, as we went, I could hear the word being passed throughout the marketplace – alternatingly: They are Americans, or They are white. I was offended at the latter reference but soon learned to the Ghanaians the statement meant the same thing. Because most of the Americans who had visited Kumasi had been white, it became a de facto definition, identification, or slang of sorts for anyone who came from the U.S. On the day we visited the marketplace, one of the things we purchased were beautiful fabrics to take back home. Yet, many of the fabric patterns that we were drawn to, we were told we should not purchase. We insisted that these fabrics of red, black and yellow were beautiful and the ones

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