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Life Before Winter

The vital ministry in assisted living facilities and funeral homes.

I'd already agreed to preach the funeral when my phone rang. The deceased was a 16-year-old girl who'd been killed in a fiery car accident. Like 90 percent of the memorial services I officiate as chaplain for funeral homes, I had never met the deceased or her family.

Now the funeral home director was calling again, with two requests: Would I be present when the parents viewed the body, and would I baptize her charred remains?

The first question wasn't a problem; the second was definitely outside my comfort zone and theological tradition. Instinctively, I knew the importance of my answer. If I said yes to both, how would my theologically correct friends respond? But if I immediately said no to the second, how could I hope to minister to the grieving parents?

Framed in those terms, my decision was not as difficult. I said yes, and met the parents at the funeral home to view the remains. Before baptizing her body by sprinkling, I gently explained to the parents that baptism is an outward ...

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